THE NATIONAL Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said the economic productivity benefits from the demographic dividend will start to be evident by 2025.
“The Philippines is expected to be the last major Asian economy to benefit from the demographic dividend between the years 2025-2070. If not properly addressed, the country would need to wait until at least 2050 to benefit from the demographic dividend, or possibly miss it all together,” the NEDA said in a statement on Thursday.
NEDA said that it is banking on the full implementation of the Responsible Parenthood & Reproductive Health (RPRH) Act of 2012, after the lapse of a two-year temporary restraining order in 2017.
“We need to fully implement the RPRH Law to speed up the demographic transition. If fully implemented now, we should get there by 2025. When people are able to care for their reproductive health and plan for their families, they can save more and invest in their children better. This will lead to a population that is healthier and well educated,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said.
The law provides universal access to contraception, fertility control, sexual education, and maternal care.
A demographic dividend is marked by accelerated economic growth resulting from the productivity of an expanding work force.
“This transition leads to steadily rising savings and investment rates and, hence, faster economic growth and improved living standards… With a bigger work force that can generate higher income and a less dependent population, the government can allocate its resources for economic development and social services (education, health and nutrition). This is also often referred to as the demographic-economic window of opportunity,” NEDA said.
South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong started reaping the dividend in the 1980s, while Singapore and Thailand reached that level in the 1990s.
Thailand was earlier roughly at par with the Philippines in terms of economic and population growth rates. However, Thailand reduced its fertility rate much faster, and was in a position to benefit from the demographic dividend as early as 2000, and hit upper-middle income status in 2011. The Philippines is expected to reach that income level next year.
The Philippines’ fertility rate — or the number of children born per 1,000 women — is 2.9, with a total population of 106 million as of 2017. Thailand’s comparable numbers are 1.5 children per thousand with an overall population of 68 million.
“The time is ripe to lay down the foundation for the Philippines to harness its demographic dividend. It is imperative for both the public and private sectors to work together toward this goal today,” Mr. Pernia said.
“It is to the country’s advantage to make the best of the increasing labor force in order to boost economic output. But the government must invest in human capital through family health and educational interventions,” he added.
Currently, the population is still dominated by dependents amid slow growth in the takeup rate for contraceptives, at 40.4% in 2017 from 37.6% in 2013.
Youth unemployment as of October was 13.3%, against the 5.1% unemployment rate overall.
The government aims to cut youth unemployment to about 8% by 2022.
NEDA also noted that some 4.4 million young Filipinos are not benefiting from skill enhancement provided by education, training, or employment.
Ateneo de Manila University professor Cielito F. Habito has warned that the forthcoming shift to a “demographic sweet spot” may not deliver the promised results, citing a study that about a third of Filipino youth are physically and mentally stunted, pointing to the need for more spending on health and education. — Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan