Smaller-size Filipino families and the ‘demographic dividend’

Published July 16, 2021, 12:01 AM

by Manila Bulletin

The growth of the Philippine population continues on a downtrend, as more families prefer a smaller family size.  Total population as of May 2020 stood at 109,035,343, a 1.63 percent increase from 100,981,437 in 2015 — or slower than the 1.72 percent uptick from 2010 to 2015.

An analysis of the National Statistician’s latest report deserves closer attention, especially in terms of its implications on the country’s growth prospects and the wellbeing of Juan de la Cruz.

First: Calabarzon, Metro Manila and Central Luzon are the most highly populated regions making up 38.6 percent of the country’s population. These three regions also contribute 14.8 percent, 31.8 percent, and 11.3 percent, respectively, or a total of 57.9 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

Indeed, a growing population creates an ever-expanding market and incentivizes fresh investments in new businesses and jobs creation, thereby enhancing these three regions’ high-growth profile.

On the flipside, the impact of protracted quarantine restrictions on the regional economies mirrors the deep recession experienced by the national economy.  It also signals the need to step up the pace of economic growth in the other regions so that its benefits may also facilitate their uplift.

Secondly, as the number of Filipinos continues to grow at a slower pace, there is a widening window of opportunity to achieve an optimal population size such that every citizen receives ample basic services and becomes more productive.

In the Philippine Development Plan for 2017-2022, a 1.6 percent population growth was assumed. It does not, however, provide population growth rate targets for the ensuing two decades covered by the AmBisyon Natin 2040, long-term development strategy that was crafted in 2015 during the Aquino administration.

Our economic managers’ task is to ensure that increases in economic output keep pace with, or stay ahead, of the needs of a growing population. The long-term goal of AmBisyon Natin bears reiteration:

“In 2040, all Filipinos will enjoy a stable and comfortable lifestyle, secure in the knowledge that we have enough for our daily needs and unexpected expenses, that we can plan and prepare for our own and our children’s futures. Our families live together in a place of our own, yet we have the freedom to go where we desire, protected and enabled by a clean, efficient, and fair government.”

Thirdly, there is a need for more purposive government action to optimize the benefits of the “demographic dividend.”  According to the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), smaller numbers of children per household “generally lead to larger investments per child, more freedom for women to enter the formal workforce and more household savings for old age.”

The country’s median age, 25.7 years old, reflects a youthful profile and an abundance of productive talent that must be harnessed optimally. The Philippines is now the 13th largest country in terms of population; a large, growing market attracts investments and creates more jobs.

Capitalizing on this confluence of factors is imperative.