Monday, September 26, 2011

Making The Most Of The Demographic Dividend

From the World Bank blog:

Family planning, healthier economies

Countries like South Korea and Thailand have seen similar demographic formulas work to their advantage in recent decades: falling fertility rates lead to burgeoning adult working populations lead to greater economic productivity.

How did they harness these changes to create engines of growth? According to speakers at a World Bank panel on “Realizing the Demographic Dividend,” greater investments in health, family planning, and gender equality paved the way, followed by further investments in education, youth development, and job creation.When Thailand launched a national family planning policy in the 1960s, “the dividend to the economy turned out to be larger than expected,” said H.E. Thirachai Phuvanatnaranubala, Minister of Finance for Thailand. Women were able to access education, leave rural areas, and take jobs in manufacturing and services. Eventually, women decided to delay having children, he said, and the economy benefited from an expanded workforce.

The key to harnessing the demographic dividend is...(*ahem*) cheaper condoms.

More seriously, there's more than a grain of truth here. In Malaysia, the proportion of women of working age in the formal employment sector is less than 45%. Instead of working to improve women's participation and empowerment like the rest of East Asia did in the 1960s and 1970s, we told them to stay home and have babies (the National Family Policy in the 1980s). It's only now that Malaysia will reap the demographic dividend, 20-30 years later than the rest of the region. Looking at the figures, I'm continually amazed we've gotten this far without the tailwinds of a structural change in demographics.

1 comment:

  1. Will never happen with the Malays. UMNO wants plenty of Malay dolts.