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Golden population offers opportunities

Update: January, 04/2010 - 14:33

HA NOI — Viet Nam is entering a potential demographic golden period in which the group of working-age people nearly doubles that of dependent age, a period economic experts dub a “golden opportunity” for national growth.

This is the most impressive results in the 2009 Population and Housing Census officially released on the last day of last year by the General Statistics Office.

Do Thuc, Deputy Director of the Central Steering Committee for the Population and Housing Census said that compared with the results of the 1999 census, population structure has changed positively with a higher number of people of working age than dependents, a group that includes children under 15 and elderly people over 60.

The country’s population numbers nearly 85.8 million people, an increase of 9.5 million compared to 1991.

While the population under 15 has fallen to 25 from 33 per cent, those aged 60 and over has only increased by 1 per cent. In contrast, the population proportion of the 15-59 age group - the main labour force - has increased up to 66 per cent from 58 per cent in 1999.

Thuc said that the result has indicated every 100 people in the 15-59 age group have to support 51 people (of which there are 38 children and 13 elderly people).

In 1999, this proportion was 100 for 71 people. He said that according to the United Nations population change model, Viet Nam is now in a period of population bonus (the optimal population structure).

Le Thi Thuy Van, an expert from the Ministry of Finance’s Financial and Economic Science Institute, said that the demographic bonus era is a golden chance for Viet Nam to take a big leap forward in development, with its young labour force, especially in the period of 2011-20 when the country targets becoming an industrial country and achieving middle-income status.

Giang Thanh Long, director of the National Economics University’s Economic Analysis and Forecast Centre said that Viet Nam’s demographic bonus would last 30 years in which the young labour force would have the highest growth in the period of 2010-20.

Over this period, the average number of the working-age population group will increase by 1 million people per year.

Long said that the length of the country’s demographic bonus is average. India’s is 68 years, Guatemala’s 64 years and China’s 48 years; while Poland and the Czech Republic averaged 22 and 28 years respectively.

Long said that the demographic bonus era does not naturally bring social benefits and economic growth on its own.

Experts agree that the lessons drawn from the countries such as Japan, India or China which have experienced this era, were focusing investment in education and creating employment for young people.

Van said that the Government should publish and implement a comprehensive package of policies in which solutions related to education and training, jobs and human resources, health care, and social welfare must correlate.

Long said that all the policies must relate to the fact that the majority of the young labour force are based in the countryside and for main part, lack working skills.

He added that it is necessary for the authorities to have training plans and diversify the types of jobs available in the countryside.

If this was not done, instead of a golden chance, the demographic bonus era will turn into a great disadvantage because a young labour force without jobs would be a burden for the society while still requiring basic necessities and health care. Japan serves as a good example of a country that took advantage of their chance by focusing investment in health and education, he stressed.

The experts also warned that the period should be used to finalise the social welfare system in preparation for the later period where the aging population will continue to grow.

Hoa said that not only had the number of working-age people witnessed high growth, but the standard of workers had increased, as shown through increased academic standards.

The census also indicated that there were 8.6 million people in full-time education, accounting for 13.4 per cent of the total population over 15 years old.

However, a high proportion of the people who had not received vocational training were mainly based in the agriculture-forestry and fishing sectors, he added.

The Red Delta has the highest proportion of population having vocational skills at 20 per cent, while the Mekong Delta currently has the lowest proportion at just 7 per cent.

Nguyen Dinh Cu, director of the Institute of Population and Social Studies said that Viet Nam is also facing the challenges of an aging population since the rate of elderly people increased while the rate of children under 15 years old reduced sharply over the last 10 years. —VNS

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