Thursday, July 24, 2008

Why Population Management is Political

Salient features of Professor Ernesto Pernia's article on Population, Economy and Poverty:

Is it any wonder why we have fallen behind our Asian neighbors, and are likely to be left behind by the rest of developing Asia? We’re still debating such rudimentary matters as the population issue and fiscal deficits, while our neighbors have moved on to focus on more contemporary economic concerns, such as global competitiveness, investment climate and productivity growth.

A common view was that rapid population growth – of two percent or higher per year then prevailing in many developing countries – was more likely to hinder than foster economic development. This negative effect operates via reduced child care and human capital investment, lower household savings for private and public investments, and constraints on allocative efficiency, entrepreneurship and innovation. Rapid population growth results in available capital being thinly spread among many workers, as well as in fiscal and environmental externalities.

Other countries in East and Southeast Asia have experienced sharp reductions in poverty as a consequence of rapid and sustained economic growth, attributable to sound economic strategy that included strong population policy. These countries have benefited from a "demographic bonus" resulting from marked increases in the share of workers (population ages 15-64) relative to young dependents (ages 0-14), while the Philippines continues to bear a "demographic onus" – a large share of young dependents relative to workers (and savers). Thus, in the 1990s, research and the debate on the population issue in the developing world began to taper off, except in the Philippines.

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