|Naomi Kitahara. — Photo courtesy of the UNFPA|
Naomi Kitahara, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative in Việt Nam, speaks to Việt Nam News reporter Thu Trang about the milestone of Việt Nam's population passing 100 million next month, and the challenges and opportunities that this will bring.
What do you think about Việt Nam's population passing 100 million people next month? In comparison with other countries in the region and the world over, how will be Việt Nam’s population scale?
Việt Nam’s population will soon reach 100 million and Việt Nam will become the 15th most populous country in the world. This should be seen as an important milestone for Việt Nam, and I would like to congratulate the Government of Việt Nam as this demonstrates a story of triumph. Việt Nam, which was once a war-torn country, has successfully taken a substantial number of people out of poverty, and achieved remarkable socio-economic growth including health, education, employment, technological advancement, and so on.
The world is changing at rapid pace and Việt Nam should not fall behind. Having a population of 100 million means a sizable domestic market with possibilities to attract more foreign direct investment with the availability of healthy, well-educated and skilled labour force who have innovative and creative minds, and strong dynamism in the country. It is therefore critical to recognise that 100 million in 2023 is not just the number. It’s a vision of building a forceful Việt Nam for today’s and for tomorrow’s generations.
What are the opportunities and challenges Việt Nam will face in the coming years?
As we launched last year the #8BillionStrong campaign, when the world reached eight billion population, the milestone Việt Nam will reach means “100 million hopes, 100 million dreams, and 100 million possibilities.”
Given Việt Nam’s progress in improving the socio-economic status of its population, the country can now benefit from an increased pool of skilled human resources.
Việt Nam’s unique demographic window of opportunities is still open until 2039, when the demographic bonus can be tapped into, with the presence of young and productive population groups, so as to accelerate the country’s socio-economic growth further.
The challenge is that Việt Nam will soon complete a demographic transition.
People are healthier and live longer, and having less children. With fertility decline and limitation over the past decades, Việt Nam’s population is aging fast.
Việt Nam is expected to become an aged country by 2036 when the number of people aged 65 and above will reach 15.5 million, accounting for more than 14 per cent of the total population.
Also, given the son preference, which is still prevalent in Việt Nam’s society, coupled with fertility decline and limitation and availability of technology, prenatal sex selection is common, and 47,000 girls are estimated to be missing every year.
It is projected that by 2034, Việt Nam will have an excess of 1.5 million men aged 15-49, and the number will reach 2.5 million by 2059.
What should the country do to take advantage of having a population of 100 million?
In Việt Nam’s path to sustainable development, it is critical to emphasise that people are not the problem, but people are the solution.
It is not about the number, or more or fewer people, but it is about ensuring more and equitable access to opportunities for all. The best way is to support the rights of people, including sexual and reproductive rights and choices, and gender equality.
As a guardian of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which Việt Nam signed up to, UNFPA advises that it is time for Việt Nam to be fully in line with the ICPD principle that individuals and couples should be able to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of children.
In doing so, we all must ensure that every woman, every mother, and every couple should be able to access quality sexual and reproductive health care, as well as child and housing support services particularly for young couples. UNFPA globally estimates that every US$1 invested in maternal health can expect $8.4 of economic return by 2050. Likewise, for every $1 invested in family planning, $10.10 of economic return can be delivered.
Given such significant demographic shifts which are happening in Việt Nam, also as part of the global Mega-Trend, it is more critical than ever before that population dynamics and demographic analysis are carefully integrated in Việt Nam’s Socio-Economic Development Strategy and Plan, as well as in the National Action Plan for Sustainable Development.
Here, particular attention must be paid to special needs of vulnerable population groups such as women and girls, adolescents and youth, older persons, ethnic minorities, migrant workers, people with disability, and survivors of domestic and gender-based violence. No one should be left behind in the country’s sustainable development process. — VNS