PH’s population sweet spot
There is good news and bad news about the Philippines’ population profile today.
In 2021, the country’s population increased by 324,000 or a mere 0.3 percent compared to 914,797 births in 2020. The Commission on Population and Development (PopCom) said the growth rate was the lowest in more than 70 years.
The slow growth was attributed to the adverse effects of the pandemic, which discouraged families from having additional mouths to feed and the increase in awareness of responsible parenthood despite strident opposition from the Catholic Church and pro-life groups.
To date, there are approximately 113 million Filipinos and counting.
Out of that number, some 70 million are between the ages 15 and 65 who are available for gainful employment, according to the PopCom in a recent report.
It’s a labor pool that, if properly and timely utilized, could reap enormous economic rewards.
For countries with market-based economies, that age bracket is considered a “sweet spot,” or an asset to the economy, because that’s the period of highest human productivity.
By and large, the men and women in that group are physically, emotionally and mentally able to engage in financially rewarding activities and, with money in their pockets, want to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
As income earners, they constitute significant sources of government revenues. Their purchases of goods and services help drive the economy. And because they are young and healthy, their need for government-funded health and social services is often minimal.
For retirees or pensioners, the contributions of that working age population to government-supervised retirement programs makes possible the financial lifeline they need to continue to live in relative comfort.
That employment pool is, however, unavailable or otherwise inadequate in some economies in this region.
Due to the shortage of skilled and unskilled labor in their populace, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan, for example, have been aggressive in their recruitment of workers from less developed Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries, including the Philippines, to meet their manpower requirements.
With the Philippine economy presently in the pits and the employment rate still high because of, among others, the pandemic, it should not come as a surprise if many Filipinos in the working age bracket today find it expedient to go abroad to look for lucrative employment.
Recall that at the height of the pandemic in 2020, the government restricted the migration of nurses to countries whose hospitals had already agreed to pay them salaries double or triple what they were receiving here.
The nurses wanted to leave despite the need for their services here because they were either underpaid or were not given the facilities needed to prevent them from getting infected by the virus.
Under pressure from the nurses’ families who raised a howl, the government lifted the restriction and allowed their migration. And they quickly did for fear that the government might change its mind and close the airport departure gates again.
Unless the government implements (and soon) the proper measures to minimize labor migration, the Philippines stands to lose by default the benefits of the present population’s sweet spot.
The rewards from the billions of pesos that the government spent, directly or indirectly, for the education of Filipinos in that age bracket would, sadly, be enjoyed by other countries.
How ironic for the scarce resources of an underdeveloped country to be used for the good of developed countries.
The exodus cannot be stopped by appeals to patriotism or love of country. It’s not that those Filipinos are less patriotic if they opt to seek employment elsewhere in the world, but what’s the alternative if no jobs are available here and, if they are, do not pay enough to maintain a decent living in these times. INQ
For comments, please send your email to “[email protected]”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.