HA NOI, 14 July 2015 – A workshop to share international experiences on development policies in response to population dynamics was held today in Ha Noi by the Central Economic Commission (CEC), with technical support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Viet Nam.
Participants of the workshop were representatives from CEC, Central Commission for Propaganda and Education, Ministry of Health, other line ministries, representatives from embassies, research institutes, international and local organizations in Viet Nam. In addition, there were international experts from Australia, U.S.A., Taiwan and Thailand participating and sharing their country-specific experiences. The participants discussed key issues related to population, demographic trends and its impacts on sustainable development.
Data from the 2009 census and other population based surveys show that Viet Nam has made impressive progress in achieving its family planning and reproductive health goals. On average, a Vietnamese woman now gets just two children in her lifetime. That means that Viet Nam has reached replacement level fertility for ten years now. Reductions in maternal and child mortality have been also impressive. However, progress made at the national level also masks disparities at the sub-national level. Inequalities and disparities have been increasing and are accompanied by new forms of poverty and vulnerability that will require greater attention in the coming years.
Addressing the workshop, Mr. Dinh Van Cuong, Vice Chairman of the CEC emphasized: "Although Viet Nam has achieved significant results, the country is facing new emerging issues, such as population ageing, sex ratio at birth imbalance, low quality of life, rapid migration and urbanisation. It is now the time for Viet Nam to shift its population policy’s focus from birth control to more holistic integration of population variables into development planning, in order to effectively take advantage of population dynamics for the country's socio-economic and sustainable development".
According to the international experts, international evidence suggests a return to fertility decline in Viet Nam though the birth rate maintains around two children per woman for about 10 years. It is because Viet Nam’s income levels and education levels rise, and urbanization continues. Fortunately, in Viet Nam, there is no need for pro-natalism. However, this presents an opportunity for policies that support couples to achieve their reproductive decision whether it is to have more children or to cease childbearing.
A number of studies have pointed out that age-structure changes have significant influences on human capital accumulation, which is a factor impacting the long-term economic growth. In her opening remarks, Ms. Ritsu Nacken, UNFPA Representative a.i. in Viet Nam stressed that: "Viet Nam has entered a period of golden population structure since 2010 where two people at working age are for every person at dependent age (0-14 and 65+). However, the “golden opportunities” are not automatically turned into dividends for the economy of Viet Nam.” She added that Viet Nam needs to have timely and proper policies for reaping the advantages of abundant labor force by investing in young people because the golden population period will end after 2040. An expert also shared his view in the workshop that Viet Nam would not be able to take the demographic opportunity as long as expected if labor productivity would not be improved.
Outcomes of the workshop will inform policy makers and legislators with evidence compiled from both researches and actual policy implementation in the countries that experienced a demographic transition similar to Viet Nam. Furthermore, a number of policy implications and recommendations shared at the workshop help lay the foundation for a more comprehensive policy and legal framework to address new challenges related to population dynamics in Viet Nam.