This statement focuses on population policy in the context of poverty alleviation goals of the country. The main contention is the fact that population control measures are not effective in bringing down birth rates. The statement abstains from contentious debates relating to women’s rights, health issues, pro-life vs. pro-choice polemic, the religious stance, environmental impact, eugenics and nativism. Those important debates, which should be reserved for separate fora, do not directly relate to poverty alleviation.
Global Filipino Nation (GFN), an international association of global Filipinos, their families and onshore Filipinos advocating good governance, has cautioned national officials from labeling divergent views on population policy and control as “narrow-minded, parochial and stupid”. On the contrary, GFN asserts that worldwide economic history and empirical evidence do not support the policy premise that population control measures effectively bring down birth rates, thus advancing poverty alleviation goals.
Evidence shows that population growth rates decline, not a result of deliberate population policy, but due to economic growth, education and the rise of women’s rights.
At the lowest stage of economic development, population growth rates tend to be high. Children, including sons and daughters of age and married, serve a social insurance function: working in the fields, contributing to family income, fulfilling household tasks, helping finance the schooling of siblings and providing for the old age of parents.
As societies grow economically, incomes rise and formal forms of social insurance develop -- resulting in the reduced value of children as an informal form of social insurance. Awareness and expectations of social mobility spread, inducing the youth to postpone the age of marriage and couples to reduce the number of children. Movements promoting women’s rights and gender equality have contributed to a decrease in the number of children.
Worldwide population control measures adopted have not been effective. They have been introduced generally when population growth rates have been on the decline in many countries, including China. Even the Philippines is undergoing a perceptible population growth decline, with the rate dropping from the 3%+ levels of the 60s to the current level of 1.95% as estimated by the Philippine National Statistical Coordination Board. Growth rate data would be more meaningful if net migration figures are revealed.
Birth rates in highly-developed countries have decreased to bare replacement levels. Many Western nations, such as the U.S. and Canada, grow only due to immigration. Some European countries are facing an absolute decline in population. Japan would experience a declining population as the post-World War II generation dies off. More and more observers are becoming fearful of too many elderly people rather than too many babies. Ironically, the still relatively robust birth rate of the Philippines has served as a national social safety net, given population migration cum remittances.
Policy makers should exercise caution lest they succumb to the geopolitical goals of developed countries and the perceived post-Cold War era concerns about immigration pressures, national security and environmental degradation. Policy makers, especially politicians, should also resist the temptation of formulating judgments on what is good for families and making major decisions in the lives of the people.
GFN urges policy makers to focus on pro-growth policies, including dismantling the special interest obstacles to growth, rather than apply resources to misguided population policy.