Playing with Demographics

I sent this letter to the Philippine Daily Inquirer July, 2011.

One can frequently read about people praising countries like China who have been successful in enforcing their population control programs. One example is Conrado de Quiros who in his May 19, 2011 column talks about China’s one-child policy as a “formidable proof of success” and “one that has benefited not just China but the world.”  But now it seems that “success” is back-firing.

Last November 2010, a very secular magazine, The Economist, published a special section on the aging and dwindling population of Japan. Now, in its July 23, 2011 edition it published two articles on China’s aging population and the economic and social repercussions of their family planning policies.

One article reported: “Between 2000 and 2010, the share of the population under 14—future providers for their parents—slumped from 23% to 17%. China now has too few young people, not too many. It has around eight people of working age for every person over 65. By 2050 it will have only 2.2. Japan, the oldest country in the world now, has 2.6. China is getting old before it has got rich… And even had the one-child policy done nothing to reduce births, the endless reiteration of slogans like ‘one more baby means one more tomb’ would have helped to make the sole child a social norm, pushing fertility below the level at which a population reproduces itself. China may find itself stuck with very low fertility for a long time. Demography is like a supertanker; it takes decades to turn around. It will pose some of China’s biggest problems.”

I would suggest that you be aware of these facts and help shape public opinion, beginning with the opinion of your main editorials and your columnists so that we help steer the Philippines away from this trap. Like China we can get old before we get rich if we push population programs aimed at lowering birth rates.

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