MANILA – The country can manage its population growth by continuing its implementation of family planning and reproductive health programs, the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) said Monday.

Ideally, a population growth rate of 1 percent can maintain a good number of effective workers who can support older, retired, or partly retired seniors, according to Undersecretary Juan Antonio Perez III, POPCOM Executive Director.

Conditions will get worse if the country keeps growing at a rate of 1.6 percent, which was seen before the Covid-19 pandemic.

"This effective workforce is crucial not only to support pensions of older Filipinos but also to cover increasing costs of geriatric health care and social services for disabled and isolated older Filipinos," Perez said in a statement.

Based on the 2020 Census of Population and Housing conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority, the percentage share of Filipino children under 5 years old is down to 10.2 percent in 2020 from 10.8 percent in 2015 and 12.6 percent in 2000.

The decreasing number of children is indicative of the choice of women and couples to have smaller families with just two children at the most.

"Worldwide as well, the trend in the last half century is for smaller families. The number of seniors is on the rise due to better health and socioeconomic conditions. Seniors are better educated and have healthier lifestyles," Perez said.

Perez noted that the relatively large numbers in the age group 5 to 14 who will gradually join the workforce up to 2035 can be an advantage or a disadvantage.

"Policies which take advantage of this potential can reap a demographic dividend during this period, with policies to increase the employability of the young and women, greater entrepreneurship, incentives for local MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises), and increasing financial literacy. The bane of social unrest and instability will result from increasing poverty in the general population and joblessness among the young Filipinos," he said.

The POPCOM chief pointed out that the current situation of the Philippines, being in a "demographic window of opportunity", was also seen in other countries in Europe, North and South America, the West, and other Southeast Asian countries.

The demographic dividend or window of opportunity is defined as the period during which a country's population experiences age structures that are highly favorable for development. (PNA)