MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines has one of the youngest populations in Southeast Asia with a median age of 23 years, considered as a major economic advantage moving forward, the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) said.
Based on 2010 data, the Philippines’ median age was the third youngest, next only to Lao PDR (21 years) and Cambodia (22 years) which are among the weaker member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in terms of economic growth/performance.
On the other hand, the median age of Singapore is 41 years, while that of Thailand is 33 years, two of the leading members of the Asean.
“The Philippines’ growing labor force can be beneficial to the economy assuming that enough jobs will be available whether here or overseas,” Jose Ramon G. Albert, secretary general of the NSCB, an attached agency of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
Albert added that while the Philippine population is aging, it has an age structure in 2010 that is not a substantially different from those of past decades.
The United Nations forecasts that in 2030, the median age in the Philippines will reach 29 years, and it will be 35 years by 2050.
The Philippines can take advantage of its growing working age proportion to pump up its economy, Albert added.
He said while the Philippines has a smaller proportion of dependents and a lower fertility in 2010 compared to past decades, the country still has a young population.
“Even if total fertility rates reach replacement levels in 2040, the Philippine population will only decline 60-70 years from then. Such a demographic winter will likely not happen within the 21st century,” he added.
Total fertility rate in the Philippines decreased from 1970 to 2010 but remained the highest among Asean countries.
The statistics agency said that in the Philippines, total fertility rate decreased from 7.2 in 1960 to 3.1 in 2010. But comparing it with other ASEAN members, the Philippines has the second highest total fertility rate in 1970 with 6.3, although this reflects a 3.2-reduction in a 50-year span.
Albert argued that even if the total fertility rate continues to decline in the Philippines by 0.2 point every five years, replacement fertility levels of two points will only be reached by 2040 as projected by the National Statistics Office (NSO).
Meanwhile, the age-dependency ratio has been declining since 1970.
The implication of the declining dependency ratio is that it frees more earnings for the working individual.
“With fewer dependents to support by the working age, household income can be used for productive investments. The Philippines’ growing labor force can be beneficial to the economy assuming that enough jobs will be available whether here or overseas,” the NSCB chief pointed out.
Albert stressed further that the gains in improved living standards can be made only if the working age population will be equipped with sufficient education that will provide them opportunities for decent employment.