| Associate Professor Dr Luu Bich Ngoc, Director of the Institute for Population and Social Studies at the National Economics University.
Ms Ngoc said it usually takes up to 100 years for other nations to shift from a young population to an aging population. However, the demographics of Vietnam’s population are altering much more rapidly, it is projected to change from a youthful to an aging population in under 22 years. Ms Ngoc granted an exclusive interview to a Radio Voice of Vietnam (VOV) reporter on the issue.
Reporter: Conclusion No 119 adopted by the 11th Party Central Committee stressed the necessity of shifting the population policy’s focus from family planning to population and development. Recently, the issue was raised for discussions during the sixth plenum of the 12th Party Central Committee. Why is the problem being addressed now?
Assoc Prof: After 55 years of carrying out the family planning policy, Vietnam’s fertility rate dropped from over 6 children per woman in the 1960s to two per woman of reproductive age in 2005 and has plateaued until now.
With a population of 95 million people, Vietnam is already under huge pressure to deal with overloaded social services, poor infrastructure and poverty reduction. If the country fails to realize population and family and planning goals, the growth of population will exert an even greater pressure on these already struggling services.
There is no denying that the success of family planning policy in the past while the country is currently entering a period called the ‘golden population structure’ due to the downward trend of birth rate and an increased life expectancy.
The question is how to maintain and develop the restructure to spur the socio-economic growth.
Reporter: Vietnam’s population is in the process of aging, what are the issues country is likely to face?
Assoc Prof Ngoc: An aging population occurs when the proportion of people over 60 is higher than 10%.
When this rate exceeds 20% of the total population, it means that the country is entering the aging population. This befalls when the proportion of the elderly people increases and the proportion of children decreases.
Decreasing fertility rates and higher levels of national development go hand in hand. Therefore, almost all nations in the world have experienced a transition period from a young to an aging population.
In Vietnam, the transition will only take 22 years. This rapid change is attributed to the country’s population and family planning policies and the rapid decrease in fertility rates in the previous generation.
The contribution of medical advances is also significant, with an increased life expectancy, the country’s average now 74, speeding up the rate of an aging population.
When the aging population does occur, Vietnam will face underlying challenges such as an aging workforce, further strained social welfare services for the elderly and migration issues.
Changes in population restructure will lead to a transition in workforce from young to old. This requires appropriate measures to cope with the new transition.
Reporter: At the sixth plenum of the 12th Party Central Committee, the Ministry of Health proposed plans to adjust the fertility rate. Accordingly, the first plan is to maintain the current fertility rate for as long as possible and encourage married couples to have two children without adherence to law. Second, each family has one to two children and control the growth of population. Third, there is no limit on childbirth. What is your viewpoint on this issue?
Asso Prof Ngoc: Population plans were discussed at the sixth plenum of the 12th Party Central Committee. As analysed above, a proper family planning policy has achieved certain significant goals.
Demographically, we are targeting a ‘balanced population model’ with replacement level fertility. As a result of this the population will maintain stable development over the different periods.
This shows that Vietnam needs to maintain the current fertility rate by incentivising married couples to have two children. The policy should be flexible depending on each region as Vietnam’s fertility rate varies.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Health, the nation currently has an infertility rate of 13% for married couples. It is imperative to encourage couples to give good birth control options support those who have difficulty giving birth. My viewpoint is that the family planning policy needs to resolve all the population-related issues, not only the number of children each couple should have.
Thank you very much.