More Children, Less Trouble for Vietnam
For a typical couple in a Vietnamese city, the idea of having children would be limited to one or two, and nothing more..
However, this trend is now also developing in rural areas.
In January, the Health Ministry asked the government to adopt a new policy to encourage women to have more children., This is a step away from the two-child policy that has been in place for over 50 years.
Launched by the Vietnamese government in the early 1960s in northern Vietnam, the policy emphasizes the official family-size goal to consist of "one or two children."
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The Health Ministry’s statistics in 2016 show that Vietnam has around 93.4 million people and the total fertility rates - the average number of children a woman bears over her lifetime - dropped from five children per woman in 1970s to 2.09 children per woman in 2016.
Lower birth rates were recorded in more developed areas such as Ho Chi Minh City with 1.45 children per woman.
The Ministry also warned that low birth rates could lead to problems such as an aging population and gender imbalance.
With economic progress and higher emigration rates, will Vietnam end up with an aging population like Japan and Singapore?
Couples in developed cities in Vietnam devote more time to work and leisure and less time for the family. They either get married later or choose to be single, have less children and this is further proven with an increasing divorce rate.
A 2013 survey by Vietnam’s General Statistics Office revealed the number of divorces in Vietnam increased from 51,361 cases in 2000 to 88,591 cases in 2010, and 145,791 cases in 2013.
During the last decade, Vietnam had been in the “demographic golden age” with about 25 percent of its population aged between 10 and 24.
Vietnam will continue to reap the benefits of this golden age for several more years. However, due to a lower birth rate and longer life expectancy (from 42 years in 1966 to 75 years in 2016), Vietnam is aging rapidly and the workforce is shrinking.
The World Bank report, Live Long and Prosper: Aging in East Asia and Pacific calculates that it will only take 15 years for Vietnam’s senior demographic, aged 65 and above to climb from 7 to 14 percent of the total population. This same transition will take 20 years in Thailand, and 25 in China, while it took 45 years for the UK and 69 years for the US to reach a similar status.
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Meanwhile, Vietnam’s life expectancy is expected to hit 80.
This scenario seems to be grey given the fact that Vietnam may not be well-prepared for an aging population.
According to Thanh Nien, a General Statistics Office’s survey in 2014 shows that more than 70 percent of the aged population has to work to feed themselves besides their family’s support; the rest live on pension or social welfare.
About 18 percent live below the poverty line and more than a quarter of those interviewed felt that their living standard was decreasing.
Several years ago, the International Labour Organization (ILO) called for a comprehensive reform in Vietnam’s pension scheme as Vietnam’s Social Security would soon need to resort to sales of assets to cover pension costs. If nothing is done, the funds may be depleted by 2029, it said.
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