RH law can improve manpower, spur growth

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The country will have a better chance of achieving “balance” and reducing unemployment and underemployment if the government works on reining the country’s runaway population by implementing the Reproductive Health (RH) Law, according to an economist.

Economist Ernesto Pernia, economics professor of the University of the Philippines, said during a panel discussion at the Fearless Forecast of the Philippine economy for 2014 on Friday that a “sweet spot” on the “demographic dividend” should be attained by the Philippines, similar to neighboring countries in Southeast Asia, by focusing on reducing population growth that could lead to the improvement of the country’s labor force balance.

The demographic dividend refers to a period of time, may be 20 to 30 years, where fertility rates and population would fall, and that the “sweet spot” would be the period after the demographic posts positive balance to the country’s inclusive growth, job creation, and labor force in general.

Pernia said that without the government’s focus on the supply side of the labor force—with the demand side being the aim for inclusive economic growth—the sweet spot, or balance in the labor conditions in the country will still be possible beyond 2030.

“If we implement the RH law now, perhaps we can have this sweet spot by 2020 or 2025.

That’s how this program is going to matter a lot in taking economic demographic sweet spot, gaining economic demographic dividends,” Pernia said.

“Significantly reducing unemployment and poverty reduction is not solely through job creation, but also by managing the quality and quantity of the workforce which is determined with the lag maybe on the growth rate and structure of the population,” he added.

In reference to other Asian countries improving their employment sector, Pernia said that the short term of a “sound population management” would be beneficial at the micro and macro economic levels.

At the micro level, unwanted pregnancies would be attended to, which will lessen the burden of the poor to not only improve their well-being but also to acquire skills, be empowered and eventually be employed in the long run.

“Fewer wanted and better care for children would also benefit from the human capital investment and hence a more promising future. Meaning, instead of perpetuating this vicious circle of poverty because of poor women having many children and these children unable to have adequate health care and education inputs would just repeat the poverty of parents,” the UP economist said.

He also explained that at the macro level, lower population growth rates would result in several positive factors that will lessen the country’s present economic burden.

“[For macro,] as overall population growth falls, lower fertility rate of poor women, income per capita increases, and public social expenditure per person rises resulting in higher quality public social services like education and health services,” he said.

“[In the] long run, with fewer entrants into the workforce but equipped with educational skills would mean easier balance between the supply and demand for labor. This kind of experience has been worked out by our [Southeast Asian] neighbors. Instead of just working on demand side of labor which is increasing GDP [gross domestic product]growth, I think the country needs to work on the supply side of labor as well which is brought by population in general,” Pernia added.

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