Posts Tagged ‘Thailand’

A Tale of Two Countries: Family Planning in the Philippines and Thailand


By: Walden Bello
1:10 am | Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

Whenever students ask him if family planning is really essential in curbing population growth, Dr. Nibhon Debavalya, Thailand’s leading population expert, responds with a parable about Thailand and the Philippines. Interestingly, Meechai Viravaidya, the family planning and HIV-AIDS activist who received the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1994, answers the same question with the same story.

Same starting point, different outcomes

Essentially, the tale is how, starting from the same point in the early seventies, Thailand and the Philippines took separate routes, with contrasting results. Currently, Thailand has a much smaller population, a much bigger economy, fewer people living in poverty, and a better quality of life for the general population. What accounted for the difference? “Thailand,” says Nibhon, “took family planning seriously.”
Thailand had a slightly smaller GDP than the Philippines in 1975, but it had roughly the same population size, a high population growth rate, a high fertility rate, and a high proportion of people living under the poverty line.

Comparing the performance of Thailand and the Philippines over the last four decades, the following contrasts emerge: Thailand was able to radically reduce its population growth rate to 0.6 per cent while the Philippines inched down to 2.04 per cent in the period 1970 -2010.

During the period 1970-2008, Thailand’s GDP per capita grew by 4.4 per cent, while the Philippines’ grew by 1.4 per cent. By 2008, Thailand’s total GDP was US$273 billion while the Philippines’ was $167 billion.

By 2010, there were 93.6 million Filipinos, or over 20 million more than the 68.1 million Thais. This gap of 25.5 million is the demographic advantage enjoyed by Thailand—one that has made a vast difference in the economic performance and the quality of life of the people in the two countries. By 2008, owing partly to its demographic performance, Thailand’s GDP per capita was US$4,043 or more than twice that of the Philippines, which stood at $1,847. By 2010, only 9.6 per cent of Thais lived under the national poverty line while 26.4 per cent of Filipinos did.
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Poor Filipinos on the Rise Despite Growth — ADB

CHERYL ARCIBAL, GMANEWS.TV December 10, 2009 7:10pm

The number of poor Filipinos has been increasing despite relatively steady economic growth in recent years, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said.

In a study titled ‘Poverty in the Philippines: Causes, Constraints, and Opportunities,’ the Manila-based lender said the Philippine yearly poverty reduction rate of 0.47 percent between 1990 and 2005 was slower than in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Only in the Philippines has the overall number of poor people increased during that period, it added.

The number could further rise as a result of the global economic crisis and recent increases in the poverty incidence, the ADB warned.

“Because of the current global economic crisis and recent increases in the poverty incidence, the goal of reducing the proportion of people living in extreme poverty may not be achieved,” it said.

The poorest provinces in the country are mostly located in Mindanao. These are Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga del Norte, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Surigao del Norte, and Misamis Occidental. The other poorest provinces are Apayao, Masbate, Northern Samar and Abra.

Poverty trap
“For the Philippines, given the main assumption of gross domestic product growth rate of 1.6 percent and considering three scenarios, the poverty incidence will still be in the range of 21.1 percent to 28.7 percent by 2020. Unless the Philippine economy is able to shift to a higher growth trajectory, it might be stuck in a poverty trap,” the ADB said.
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(Book) Philippines Pays High Price for Unchecked Population Growth

(Excerpts from the book)

If development were a race, it may be said that among the competitors, at least in Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Thailand were the most evenly matched when the contest started. Their total populations were almost the same in the 1950s and, over the years, the infant mortality rate (IMR) and the life expectancy at birth (LEB) for both countries were not too far apart.

By 1975, even their incomes, measured in per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP), were about even, despite the fact that a quarter of a century before that, the Philippines’ per capita income was just slightly lower than Japan’s. But some 25 years later, as the world entered a new millennium, the Philippines would register one of the poorest records in Asia and would be overtaken by most of its neighbors.

Fallen star
TThe Philippines’ move from being one of Asia’s brightest stars to one of fading glory (it has also been described as the “sick man” or, to be politically correct, “person” of the region) has often been attributed to its inability to curb its high population growth rate. But such observations have always been made in general terms.

Thailand has a higher per capita GDP now partly because its population, which used to be about the same as the Philippines, was 62 million as of the year 2000 compared to this country’s 75 million. Thailand’s total fertility rate (TFR) was down to 1.9 for the same year while Indonesia’s was 2.5. On the other hand, the Philippines, while registering an impressive 50 percent reduction in TFR, still had the highest rate of 3.6.
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How Shifts To Smaller Family Sizes Contributed To The Asian Miracle

July 3, 2006

Economists credit declining fertility, from the mid-1960s to the early 1990s, as a major contributor to sustained economic growth among the Asian Tigers—the economically vibrant nations of South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and the former Hong Kong Territory. Research indicates that shifts to smaller family sizes and slower rates of population growth played a key role in the creation of an educated workforce, the accumulation of household and government savings, the rise in wages, and the impressive growth of investments in manufacturing technology.

Asian Family Planning Programs Began Early

By 1965, each of the countries that would become Asian Tigers 20 years later had established family planning programs. U.S. technical assistance and training proved instrumental in improving family planning services in several East Asian countries, especially in South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia. Fertility declined as a combined result of investments in family planning services, an increase in the level of girls’ education, an increased rate of entry of women into the work force and delayed marriage.

By 1995 couples in six out of eight of the Asian Tigers were having fewer children on average than U.S. couples. Today fertility in South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand is below two children per couple (the U.S. average is 2.1). In Indonesia (2.2 children per couple) and Malaysia (2.6 children per couple) fertility has fallen rapidly with increased access to modern contraception. Where the two-child family average persists, and where migration is not a factor, countries will ultimately reach a stable population.
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