One of the challenges facing the Philippines is reaching the demographic dividend which Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia described it as not an easy task.
Demographic dividend is the economic growth experienced by a country as a result of the change in the country’s population structure.
It is the product of the demographic transition, which is characterized by markedly declining mortality and fertility rates, resulting in the shrinking of the dependent age (0-14) group and expanding of the workforce (ages 15-64). This transition leads to steadily rising savings and investment rates and, hence, faster economic growth and improved living standards.
Demographic transition has three phases. An initial decline in infant mortality with fertility rate remaining high, marks the first phase of the demographic transition. The second phase happens when the share of working-age population becomes large relative to the young dependent ages and the older population (65 years and above).
Pernia said the road to demographic dividend is marked by challenges such as high fertility rate, particularly among poor households, and high unemployment rate among the youth.
Indicator results of the recently released 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed the country’s average total fertility rate slightly declined to 2.7 births per woman in 2017, from 3 in 2013.
Slow increase in the use of modern contraceptives was also recorded from 37.6 percent in 2013 to 40.4 percent in 2017.
Another concern is the high unemployment rate among the youth. Results of the latest Labor Force Survey conducted by PSA in October 2018 showed that unemployment remains high among young people.
Youth unemployment, at 13.3 percent, is worse than the 5.1 percent national unemployment rate and the 3.7 percent unemployment rate for the 25 to 54 age group.
The Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017- 2022 targets youth unemployment rate to decline to about 8 percent by 2022.
The government is likewise concerned about the youth “not in employment, in education, or in training” or NEET.
According to the data from PSA’s Labor Force Survey from 2012 to 2016, percentage of youth “not in employment, in education, or in training” declined from 24.8 percent to 22.1 percent.
Based on these figures, some 4.4 million young Filipinos are still underutilized with skills not being enhanced by education, training, or employment.
The government continues to take active measures to steer the country through a demographic transition and reap its dividend. It boils down to an effective population management to ensure a highly productive workforce.
“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,” Pernia said.
NEDA, with other government agencies, identified the gaps to be addressed and strategies to accelerate the demographic transition. These are detailed in the PDP 2017-2022, which emphasizes the need for a sustained universal health care program and reproductive health policies to reduce mortality and fertility rates.
The Responsible Parenthood & Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law that is already in place is very much in line with the PDP. However, the law passed in December 2012 –- after being stalled for five years with court TROs — must be fully implemented, along with adequate investment in human capital, particularly health and education for children and the youth.
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.
“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,” Pernia said.
Other reform agenda set by the government include Executive Order No. 12, series 2017, on “Zero Unmet Need for Modern Family Planning.”
For reproductive health and family planning interventions, the promotion of birth spacing of three to five years will be integrated to help couples and individuals achieve their desired family size. With low birth rates and small family sizes, it is more likely for women to be employed and to invest more time in personal development activities such as education and training.
On the education front, the current K to 12 curriculum integrates lessons on sexuality education aimed at helping students make informed choices about issues that affect their well-being. This will help address population issues by improving the education of the younger population, especially girls, to delay marriage and prevent early pregnancy.
Also, the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), which has been implemented since 2008, upholds children’s rights and aims to ensure that their basic needs concerning education, healthcare, and responsible parenting are met.
“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,” Pernia said.