Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Our golden asset: our people
POSTSCRIPT By Federico D. Pascual Jr. (The Philippine Star)
Updated March 29, 2011 12:00 AM
CLARK FIELD (PLDT/WeRoam) — It is sad, and somewhat disturbing, that every time our high school class (Pillars ’56, Holy Angel University) gets together, the number that shows up gets smaller. And the women seem to be outliving, and outtalking, us men, but that is all right.
As of press time, only 281 of our 346 classmates are still up and about in varying states of health. Time and the physical ravages of man’s mortality are taking their toll all around.
The age issue prods me to take another look at our national population that seems to have been left to run wild like weeds in the backyard.
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WE’RE ALMOST 101 M: The CIA World Factbook has it that the Philippine population would pass the 101-million mark by July, making us the 12th largest national population — accounting for 1.36 percent of the estimated 6.9 billion warm bodies crammed into this troubled world.
Filipinos who are 0-14 years of age make up 34.6 percent, and those 15-64 years of age are a whopping 61.1 percent! The median age is 22.9 years.
The 15-64-year-old bulge in the profile shows that our population is dominantly young.
Our birth rate is 25.34 per 1,000 population, while the death rate is just a fifth of that, or 5.02 per 1,000 population. Net migration rate is a negative (-)1.29 migrants per 1,000 population.
One report has said that four Filipinos are born every minute. Our population growth rate is 1.903 percent. This is an improvement over the two-plus percent of more than a decade ago, but it remains a concern of demographers and state planners.
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BIRTH CONTROL: Holding aloft the euphemism “reproductive health,” population control advocates led by no less than bachelor President Noynoy Aquino are pushing a controversial bill that would cut the population growth rate by abortifacient means, if necessary.
Malacañang’s obsession with a wide-ranging “reproductive health” law appears to follow the line of least resistance in striking a golden balance between population and resources.
The Aquino administration has failed to carry out an integrated program for good education, food production, job-generation and services-enhancement. So, it is taking the lazy shortcut of simply slowing down population growth to reduce pressure on resources.
The usual donors from the rich West that feel threatened by the poor countries’ growth are offering to help control the population, but they want this done under the umbrella of an RH law.
Malacañang may want to look at a big, dominantly young population not as a problem, but more as an asset — after looking after the youths’ education, livelihood requirements and positive orientation.
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SHORTHANDED: A Filipino traveling in Europe and other places in the developed world notices their aging population. Old folk dominate the human parade in the streets, the parks, in malls, everywhere. A young fresh face is always a delight to see in the dreary setting.
Many countries that have stepped too hard on the brakes to their population growth are now in near-panic as they scout around for younger hands to manage their industries and businesses.
Unlike in the Philippines where an extended family network is alive, they are hard put to find caregivers for the old folk waiting for their passage in hospices and old-age institutions.
Some countries, Canada and Australia for instance, have updated their immigration policies to attract foreign young professionals and skilled workers.
This makes sense since they cannot wait till their own youths, who are not aplenty in the first place, are able to complete their studies and gain experience.
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CHINA BURDEN: Suddenly more countries are feeling the urgency of having educated and technically prepared youths to take over industries and businesses that must grow in step with national requirements.
Some shriveled members of the First World shivering through the winter of an aged and aging population want to advance or prolong the spring of their younger population.
China, in a hurry to leap forward and catch up on the industrialized West, cannot be simply supplying cheap labor (which is increasingly becoming costly too) without also producing the accompanying technical and managerial personnel.
The mainland is starting to feel the drawback of decades of a policy limiting families to one child, its generations-old bias against female babies, and the stunting effects of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) that pulled out the youth from schools and threw them rampaging in the streets.
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GOLDEN ASSET: Breathing down its neck is India, which is bursting with a 1.1-billion population (versus the 1.3 billion of China) despite its state-sponsored abortion clinics where fetuses are vacuumed out of the wombs of women.
Despite the grinding poverty in many places, India is lucky to have a fine educational system turning out a large number of graduates with the technical savvy in demand in the highly competitive information-communication world.
Both China and India, accounting for a third of the world’s inhabitants, could turn their huge population, sometimes regarded as a liability, into a golden asset by looking after their education and health.
Their expanding population could also be the core of a military force needed to add muscle to their economic projection.
There is a lesson here for similarly populous Philippines.