POSTSCRIPT / August 12, 2012 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Grim facts on low population growth

CENSUS INFO: While the debate rages over the Reproductive Health bill (RA 4244), the country’s population growth has been going down without the benefit of government-funded contraceptives.

From 2.34 percent in 1990-2000, the population growth rate slid to 1.9 percent in 2000-2010, according to the 2010 census of the National Statistics Office. The latest United Nations report places it at 1.8 percent. The 2010 census counted the population at 92,337,852.

In 1960, the average number of children per Filipina in her lifetime was seven. By 1980 it was five. By 2000 it was down to 3.5. In 2010 the NSO projected it at 3.0 and about 2.65 by 2020.

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AGING PEOPLE: Not much is being said in the debate about the effects of eventually having an aging population.

In its website last May 2, Ivy Funds called attention to low fertility rates raising a red flag in tiger nations. It said:

“The world’s second and third largest economies, China and Japan, are managing a case of the baby blues. Their fellow ‘tiger’ nations – Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong – are similarly afflicted. Each of these nations suffers fertility rates roughly half the 2.1 children per household needed to replace the current populations. By 2030, these countries could have fewer people under 15 than over 60.”

“In mainland China, the one-child policy has had a profound impact on the youth population. In Japan, 20 percent of 50-year-old males have never married. In some Asian societies, up to one-third of women remain childless.”

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TIME BOMB: Taipei Times headlined on Dec.26, 2010: “Asia’s falling birth rate is a time bomb.” It reported:

“East Asia’s booming economies have for years been the envy of the world, but a shortfall in one crucial area — babies — threatens to render yesterday’s tigers toothless.

“Some of the world’s lowest birth rates look set to slash labor forces in Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea, where fewer workers will support more retirees and their ballooning healthcare and pension costs.

“In the vanguard of aging Asia is Japan, whose population started shrinking three years ago, and where almost a quarter of people are more than 65, while children make up just 13 percent. Japan’s population of 127 million will shrivel to 90 million by 2055, its level when it kicked off its post-war boom in 1955.

“Asian population giant China may still be near its prime, with armies of young rural workers flocking to its factories. However, thanks to the 30-year-old one-child policy, its demographic time bomb is also ticking.”

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LEE LOOKS BACK: Note this “Singapore Scene” article of Andrew Loh last Sept. 11, 2011, on Lee Kuan Yew who is admired for his masterful management of island-state’s rise as a tiger economy:

“In his 1983 National Day Rally speech as Prime Minister, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew highlighted his government’s concerns about the falling fertility rate in Singapore — from a healthy 4.62 in 1965 to a grim 1.82 by 1980.

“Some say the decline was a testament to his government’s aggressive and highly successful anti-birth campaigns in the 1970s (undertaken) to curb what (was seen) as a potential problem, particularly the birth of babies by lower educated mothers.

“Almost 30 years later, in 2011, Mr. Lee again raised the matter of falling birth rates. This is set against the backdrop of an even grimmer statistic — Singapore’s present fertility rate of 1.15, one of the lowest in the world.”

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BIRTH DEARTH: Worry over under-population “taking America over the financial cliff” was also voiced by Steven Mosher and Elizabeth Crnkovich in an article. They wrote:

“Social security is about to go belly up, financially speaking. And at the head of this crisis is a demographic disproportion: there are simply too few young people coming into the workforce to support the increasing numbers of elderly baby boomers who are retiring.

“In ‘What’s really behind the entitlement crisis,’ (Wall Street Journal, July 12), Ben Wattenberg explains that ‘never-born babies are the root cause of the ‘social deficit’ that plagues nations across the world and threatens to break the bank in many.’

“The math is simple. Birth rates have fallen so far and so fast that the thinning ranks of the young can no longer support the burgeoning numbers of retirees in country after country. Greece and Spain are already going over a demographic cliff.

“The problem, at root, is the birth dearth. There are a number of factors contributing to the strange barrenness of this generation… these include delayed marriages, wealth, divorce, legalized abortion, and accessible contraception.”

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EUROPE TOO: Writing in Forbes magazine last May 30, Joel Kotkin asked “What’s really behind Europe’s decline?” His answer: “It’s the birth rate, stupid!”

Kotkin wrote: “The labor demonstrators … in Madrid and other economically-devastated southern European cities, lambast austerity and budget cuts as the primary cause for their crisis. But longer-term, the biggest threat to the European Union has less to do with government policy than what is — or is not — happening in the bedroom.

“Southern Europe’s economic disaster is both reflected in — and is largely caused by — a demographic decline that, if not soon reversed, all but guarantees the continent’s continued slide. The wealthier countries of the north — notably Germany — have offset very low fertility rates and declining domestic demand by attracting migrants and building highly productive export-oriented economies.

“In contrast, the so-called Club Med countries — Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain — have not developed strong economies to compensate for their fading demographics outside pockets of relative prosperity. Spain was once one of Europe’s star performers. Six years ago the country was building upwards of 50 percent as many houses as the US while having 85 percent less population.”

Concluding, he said: “Modernization exacted its social cost. The institution of the family, once dominant in Spain, lost its primacy.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 12, 2012)

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