Population and Family in the Low Countries 1995: Selected Current Issues

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In , just 43 years later, a UNFPA-sponsored study on population and development issues in Thailand recommended consideration of policies to help prevent TFR falling below its current level of 1. As population growth rates slowed, population disappeared from the radar screen of the international development establishment, except in Africa and South Asia. This in no way means that population-development relationships have ceased to be important, but it does mean that we may need to change the way that we view them.

The present paper will consider some of the population and development issues faced in East and Southeast Asian countries, and whether they may have any relevance to issues faced in Latin America. South Asia will be left out of the picture, as its levels of economic and social development are far behind those of the regions we are comparing. A number of issues will be dealt with, but because of space limitations, not in the depth they deserve.

First, the demographic situation in East and Southeast Asia will be compared with that in Latin America. Ultra-low fertility has become a major issue in East Asia, and the reasons will be discussed, along with issues in countering low fertility through international migration. The discussion will then turn to urbanization, meanings of "development" and "poverty", and the potential role of education in fostering equality and development.

Finally, issues of population and environment will be briefly touched on. In the s, the widening gap between birth and death rates resulting from successes in lowering death rates was correctly seen as presaging unprecedented population growth. The aim of lowering fertility rates as fast as possible was firmly accepted by governments of most East, Southeast and South Asian countries. By , not only had India, Pakistan, Singapore, Korea, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong and Taiwan established anti-natalist policies focused especially on family planning programs, but they had more recently been joined by Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.


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Fertility rates fell faster and to lower levels in East Asian countries than in Latin America. Some in the family planning field have argued that this was the result of slower adoption of family planning programs in Latin America, but it must be borne in mind that levels of economic development in East Asian countries were also higher, and their pace of economic development during the s and s was extremely fast.

The fertility experience of Southeast Asian countries varied more, with Thailand going below replacement level fertility in , Vietnam, Indonesia and Myanmar reaching replacement around the present time, and Malaysia, the Philippines, and Cambodia lagging in the fertility transition. There is considerable scope here for challenging a "threshold" approach to onset of fertility declines, or for the speed of decline thereafter, because Vietnam, Indonesia and Myanmar are substantially behind Malaysia and the Philippines in many development indicators.

In any case, in relation to Latin America, Oeschli and Kirk had only limited success in determining threshold levels of indicators at which fertility falls. What we need to keep in mind is that the relationship between population and development is a two-way street. This was rather ignored by the family planning establishment, until the slogan "development is the best contraceptive" underlined the point at the Bucharest Conference. Attempts to sort out the role of family planning programs in fertility declines are greatly complicated by the fact that significant declines in infant mortality and significant socio-economic changes were taking place in parallel with FP program inputs.

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All these factors interacted to lower fertility in Asia and Latin America from the high peak of the s. Some important points seem to emerge. Secondly, we can observe some degree of inverse correlation between levels of economic and social development and fertility rates. But the correlation is far from perfect. Some examples are relatively high fertility in Malaysia and the Philippines; and remarkably low fertility in Vietnam and Myanmar, relative to their levels of economic and human development.

Thirdly, in general, poorer countries in East and Southeast Asia have lower levels of fertility than countries with equivalent levels of economic development in Latin America. This is clearly the case when we compare China, Thailand and Vietnam with Latin American countries with equivalent per capita income levels. However, nearly all the countries in both regions have now reached low levels of fertility. Of these, only the Philippines is a really populous country. The first demographic transition is essentially over. Based on the East Asian situation, one could make the case that the overriding concern from now on will be the issue of ultra-low fertility.

The labour force has already been shrinking for 15 years in Japan and is about to start shrinking in South Korea. Total population is projected by the UN medium projection to decline from million in Japan in to million in and to 90 million in the low projection.

Over the same period, South Korea's population is projected to decline from How serious are these issues of population decline? Looking at it from one point of view, the projected population would only bring Japan's population back to the number it had reached in and South Korea's to its number. In both cases, many commentators in these countries at that time considered Japan and South Korea to be overpopulated. So why the disquiet about falling back to such levels? Among demographers, it should not be necessary to belabour the point that the issue is not just one of population size but also one of population structure and population trajectory.

However, they have made good use of this dividend period in improving their human capital and achieving high rates of economic growth. Moreover, the prospect of population ageing is not totally negative. The intergenerational transfer literature e. In any case, in contrast to some countries in Europe, where some fertility "recuperation" appears to be taking place as a result of the gap between cohort fertility and period fertility, narrowing once delay of childbearing ends MYRSKYLA et al.


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  7. Also, is not the end of the story. What would happen after ? If TFR continued to remain below 1. Continued over a few generations, the population would shrink dramatically. No country can be expected to welcome such a decline, implying as it does not only issues about elderly support and labour shortages, but also issues in maintaining infrastructure built for a larger population and loss of economic weight and geopolitical status relative to countries where population growth is still occurring. The causes of these declines in fertility, and what can be done to redress them, can be summarized briefly as follows:.

    These are countries whose economic success has stunned the world. Their economic success is built on a model of enhanced human capital, with very high levels of education. Women's education has increased remarkably. Delayed and non-marriage, both voluntary and involuntary, has played an important role see Figure 1.

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    Involuntary non-marriage has to do with the changing gender balance in different marriageable age groups as a result of the educational advances just noted, the tradition of hypergamy, and the time taken to get established in a career. Voluntary non-marriage has to do with the diminishing priority given to marriage as a result of various factors noted below, and the lack of appeal to women of the East Asian "marriage package". Women want to be in the workforce to take advantage of their education, and because rising expectations mean that two-income households are perceived to be necessary.

    Governments in the region also want them to be in the workforce to boost economic growth rates. But workplaces are family-unfriendly, thus posing great conflicts for women who want to combine a career with raising a family. Other key factors are that children are very costly, in terms of financial, time and emotional investment; men are continuing to hold traditional attitudes toward the gendered division of labour in the household: and appropriate policies to support child-rearing have been lacking until recently, and even now are not comprehensive.

    Therefore, policy concern with ways to raise fertility rates hardly seems misplaced in East Asian countries and in Thailand and Singapore in Southeast Asia. Looking ahead, should planners in Brazil be anticipating a similar need for policy interventions? Is there really potential for fertility in Brazil to fall as low as in many European and East Asian countries?

    Possibly so.

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    Fertility in Brazil is already clearly below replacement level and TFR in the Southeast and the South is already down to 1. As already noted, for East Asian countries, it is hard to see forces that will raise fertility to anywhere near replacement in the foreseeable future. There is always, however, the potential role of migration. The United Nations Population Division generated a furore in Europe with its study of "replacement migration", showing that the levels of migration required to offset low levels of fertility were unrealistically high.

    But "unrealistic" in what sense?

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    One issue is whether there is a large enough supply of potential migrants to meet the need. The other issue is whether the countries concerned would be happy for their populations to be "kept afloat", as it were, by such migration. The answer is "no". The ethnic and religious composition of populations can be dramatically altered by the kinds of migration flows envisaged, and populations in Europe, Japan and South Korea show little appetite for such dramatic changes.

    Even populations of countries such as Singapore, Australia and the USA, all noted for their ethnically varied populations deeply influenced by migration over long periods, are currently making it clear to their political leaders that they are not happy with continued high levels of immigration. Coleman is concerned that the comfortable assumption that immigrants will gradually lose their distinctive identity by converging towards the behaviour and belief patterns of the majority of the population, and creating a "hybrid" population through inter-marriage will not necessarily hold in the case of Europe.

    For one thing, Muslims predominate among Europe's minorities. Though from diverse national backgrounds, these Muslim populations tend to share a preference for in-group marriage including finding marriage partners of more traditional bent in the origin country , and their robust identities and religious faith encounter, in the receiving countries, secularized liberal societies with weakened feelings of self-esteem and national identity. Coleman , p. The rather unhappy state of affairs in Europe regarding the reception to, and reactions of, immigrants, is no doubt partly the result of the recency of the need to adapt to large immigrant inflows, and partly because of the origins of these inflows, which differ markedly from those to the United States, Australia or Canada, and also differ markedly from the likely origins of any future inflows to countries such as Japan and South Korea, or to the countries of Latin America, for that matter.

    Brazil certainly falls within the ranks of countries heavily influenced by immigration, and its population is ethnically very mixed, which should make its capacity for accepting migrants greater than that in very homogeneous populations such as that of Japan.

    But while some countries are reluctantly accepting unskilled contract workers to meet labour needs, it's a different story with regard to skilled migrants. There is great competition internationally for skilled migrants, and it is less certain that the supply of these will be enough to meet the demands of the many countries selectively encouraging skilled migration.

    One aspect in which Latin America is well ahead of Southeast Asia is in its level of urbanization. Again, levels of economic development appear to explain most of the difference, although not all of it.