The Philippines’ median age stood at 24.5 years old in 2021, the second lowest in the region, a report by the ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO) showed. — PHILIPPINE STAR/WALTER BOLLOZOS

THE PHILIPPINE population is expected to be among the youngest in the region, with the country still in the early stage of its demographic transition as fertility rates remain high and the number of working-age individuals seen to peak by 2051 — the latest among Southeast Asian economies, a think tank said.

The latest Regional Economic Outlook report by the ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO) showed the Philippines’ median age stood at 24.5 years in 2021, the second-youngest in the region after Laos (23.8 years).

The country’s median age was lower than Cambodia (26.5), Malaysia (29.9), Myanmar (29), Indonesia (29.4), Brunei Darussalam (31.8), Vietnam (32), Thailand (39.3), China (37.9), Singapore (41.8), South Korea (43.4), Hong Kong (44.9) and Japan (48.4).

ASEAN+3: Selected Demographic Indicators, 2021

AMRO data also showed the Philippines’ average population growth was 1.8% as of 2021, the second-fastest in the region after Malaysia (1.81%).

The Philippines’ peak population is expected by 2092, the latest among the ASEAN member-countries plus China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan.

Peak population refers to the year when the total population/share of working population is projected to reach the highest level.

“Nearly all ASEAN+3 economies have seen their populations peak, led by Japan in 2010, while China reached its peak in 2021. Thailand will be the first in ASEAN to reach its population peak — projected around 2030 — while economies like Lao PDR and the Philippines are not expected to see their populations decline in the next 40 years,” AMRO said.

The report also showed the Philippines had the third-fastest average growth in the working age population at 2.27%, behind Malaysia (2.41%) and Laos (2.39%).

Working age population refers to those aged 15 to 64.

However, the Philippines will only see its working age population peak in 2051, the latest among ASEAN+3.

Several ASEAN+3 economies have already seen a peak in working age population, namely Japan (1991), China (2009), Singapore (2010), Hong Kong (2011), Thailand (2012), Vietnam (2013), South Korea (2015), Brunei (2018) and Malaysia (2022).

Aside from the Philippines, only Myanmar, Indonesia, Cambodia and Laos have yet to see the peak level of their working age population.

AMRO noted that ASEAN+3’s working-age population by 2050 will be 12% smaller than in 2021, “equivalent to about 190 million workers exiting the workforce.”

“Except for two, all others in the ASEAN+3 region will be technically considered ‘aging societies’ by the end of this decade. Within the next decade, the region’s working population will start to decline, and the age profile of the labor force will be gradually dominated by older workers,” AMRO said.

It said the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia and Laos are still in the early stage of the demographic transition, “with fertility rates still high (although declining).”

Data showed the Philippines has the highest fertility rate in the ASEAN+3 region at 2.75 live births per woman. 

“By 2035, all economies in the region are expected to have sub replacement fertility rates with the exception of only one, the Philippines,” AMRO Group Head and Principal Economist Allen Ng said in a hybrid briefing on Monday.

The Philippines’ elderly population is only at 5.3% of the total population as of 2021, the second lowest after Laos (4.4%).

The country’s old-age dependency ratio, which is the old-age population divided by the working age population, stood at 8.3%.

Mr. Ng said aging is a “critical challenge” for the ASEAN+3 region.

“The problem of becoming old before becoming rich is a concern for many economies especially the lower-middle and middle-income economies in the region because this implies that these economies could have less resources to manage the challenges that aging brings,” he said.

AMRO forecasts that by 2050 nearly 44% of the world’s centenarians will come from the region, particularly in China, South Korea, Japan, and Thailand.

“Rapid aging is triggering fiscal concerns due to the potential rise in healthcare costs and pension liabilities, on top of the needed infrastructure spending that is required to sustain growth,” AMRO said. — BMDC