Only 3 regions reaping economic dividends from population management

MANILA, Philippines — Only three out of the country’s 17 regions are ready to reap the benefits of “economic dividends,” according to the Commission on Population and Development (PopCom).

Citing a presentation of University of the Philippines professor Michael del Mundo, PopCom said only the National Capital Region (NCR), Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) are likely to gain social and economic benefits from the successful population management efforts.

Based on Del Mundo’s report, PopCom said a great majority of regions in the country are far behind in achieving certain criteria, particularly the local support ratio to achieve economic benefits.

Del Mundo said Zamboanga Peninsula, Western Visayas, Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan), Bicol region, Eastern Visayas and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) are “having a relatively higher number of effective consumers compared with the number of effective workers.”

He added that the Philippines needs to improve on some socioeconomic preconditions before its window of opportunity closes soon.

For the population expert, the country may miss the desired condition outright if it fails to address critical areas of concern.

To benefit from the potential demographic dividend, Del Mundo explained the country needs to hasten the demographic transition to create a large and long demographic window of opportunity and capitalize on potential economic gains by this window by ensuring economic opportunities for the population.

He observed several challenges among regions that have similarities, but with varying magnitudes.

“Lagging regions have high fertility rates — regardless if the births were planned or unwanted. Most areas also face low youth participation in the labor force and employment as well as markedly smaller women in the labor force, compared with men. Lack of a highly educated workforce is also a pattern, on top of below national average labor income,” PopCom quoted Del Mundo as saying.

“While it is necessary to lower fertility and mortality rates, they will not be sufficient, as reaching for the demographic dividend is not limited to population dynamics,” Del Mundo said.

He added that ensuring economic opportunities for Filipinos means workers are healthy and educated properly, and their skills are well-matched with their jobs.

No demographic dividend will be possible without economically productive workers, according to the UP professor.

“To fully capitalize on the demographic window of opportunity, the labor force participation rate and the employment rate for both men and women, and especially the youth, must be kept high, and that labor income should also be sufficient for workers to have savings and investments which ultimately lead to upward economic mobility for households,” he explained.

For the youth, he said there is also a need to create better labor market conditions and employment.

Financial literacy, financial inclusiveness and increased income opportunities are also requisites to improve savings build-up.

Del Mundo said key policy reforms and effective policy implementation must be achieved through a whole-of-government approach to take advantage of the benefits brought by the demographic transition.

Meanwhile, PopCom executive director Dr. Juan Antonio Perez III stressed the importance of placing the poor and vulnerable at the center of development strategies.

Perez said the Philippine Development Plan, which discusses the attainment of demographics, will prioritize regional equity as among four pillars that will help the country achieve rapid and more inclusive growth, which also cover smart infrastructure, innovation as well as climate-change mitigation and adaptation.

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