CEBU CITY –  The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) is urging government agencies and partners to work towards attaining and maximizing the country’s demographic dividend which is crucial to the country’s growth.

The demographic dividend is attained through the transition that takes place when birth and mortality rates decline, and the government is spending less on the needs of the youngest and oldest age groups in the country. This allows a country to use its resources for investment in economic development and family welfare.

“Maximizing the demographic dividend will ensure that the economy will expand even faster beyond the country’s medium-term plan and thus achieve the AmBisyon Natin 2040,” NEDA Undersecretary for Planning and Policy Rosemarie G. Edillon said in her keynote speech on Thursday, the second day of the 2nd National Family Planning Conference held at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel.

Edillon said strategies to attain the demographic dividend have been spelled out in the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022. Among them are the full and aggressive implementation of existing laws and policies, such as the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act (RA 10354), the Magna Carta of Women (RA 9710), the National Population Policy (PD 79, s. 1972) and the carrying out of a sustained universal healthcare program.

Edillon compared the Philippines and Thailand, saying that both had roughly similar growth rates back in 1975. But Thailand curbed its population level and grew at an average of 1.6 percent only. The Philippines, on the other hand, grew at an average of 2.4 percent in the 1990s and reached a population of 76 million. It hit 105 million this year.

“What would happen if the Philippines had followed the population path of Thailand between 1975 and 2000?” Edillon asked.

Citing a study done by University of the Philippines professor Dennis Mapa, Edillon said the Philippines would have been an upper middle-income country had it followed Thailand’s population path.

“There will be a cumulative increase of about 22 percent on the average income per person in the year 2000,” she said, adding this means an average income per person of about US$5,000.

Edillon noted that it is not merely the population per se that the government must work on but its quality, citing a study that shows that workers’ population growth has a positive and significant impact on economic growth.

“It is true that, the higher your working age population is, the faster your economic growth will be,” she said.

Nearly a thousand delegates coming from national and local government units, civil society groups, non-government organizations, development partners and the private sector participated in the plenary sessions on reproductive health, women’s rights, and access to healthcare, among others, from November 8 to 9.

The two-day conference was organized by the Commission on Population, the Department of Health and the Forum for Family Planning and Development, Inc.

Edillon was joined by NEDA Undersecretary Jose R. Miguel de la Rosa, who chaired the plenary session on reproductive health and family planning in the context of development.