Friday, January 02, 2009

Vietnam: 100 million people fast approaching!

VietNamNet Bridge – The birth rate in Vietnam is quickly rising again, posing many challenges for the country. Food shortages accompany enormous populations. The health sector will have to take drastic measures to prevent the “prospect” of a population of 100 million.


Limited land, crowded population


With limited land and natural resources, Vietnam has to nurture over 86 million people. At the current growth rate, Vietnam’s population would hit 115-120 million people in the not too distant future.


Minister of Health Nguyen Quoc Trieu said without drastic measures to curb the birth rate, Vietnam’s population could even reach 145-150 million.


The increase of population, according to experts, will slow down economic growth and increase unemployment. Vietnam is now in a period of golden population, during which the number of working-age people is higher than that of dependent people (children under 15 and elderly people over 64). Annually, Vietnam has around 1.5-1.6 million people reach working age, posing challenges in creating jobs for new labourers.


The country will enter a period of old population structure in the next 15-20 years, and at that time, challenges in terms of social welfare will arise. The young population structure goes with pressures in terms of health, education, and child care.


As the number of couples having more than two children is on the rise, Vietnam will have to once again resume its campaign to call for each family to have no more than two children.


The re-increase of the birth rate has been said to originate from the dissolving of the Committee for Population, Family and Children, which was in charge of family planning and population tasks, in August 2008. Since this agency was dissolved, family planning and population tasks in localities have been suspended.


Risk of food insecurity


Each year Vietnam has an additional 1 million people, equivalent to the population of a province, even though each couple has two children at most. Its population is forecast to reach 100 million in the coming years. At that time, the current 40 million tonnes/year of cereals that Vietnam can produce now would be just enough to feed domestic demand.


While the population is rising, the land area devoted to rice growing is narrowing. This means that while the need for rice is increasing, rice output will not increase, and may even decrease.


In the 2002-2007 period, the area for rice decreased by 0.46 million hectares (around 4% of agricultural land area). The biggest drop happened in the Mekong Delta (0.26 million hectares); the figure was around 0.11 million hectares for the Red River Delta. At the same time, the birth rate increased quickly; in particular, the ratio of families with three or more children rose by 16% and it was even 19-20% in 2008.


Vietnam aims to become an industrialised country by 2020, with over 40% of its population living in urban areas. The challenges for maintaining rice crops will be great. Controlling birth rate, thus, becomes a key job.