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Vietnam Considers Amending 2-Child Policy Due to Ageing Population, Low Birth Rates

Vietnam is considering alternatives to its current family-planning policies due to a rapidly aging population and low birth rates.

A proposal to relax Vietnam's two-child policy was one of three options presented by the Ministry at the 12th Party Central Committee’s sixth meeting in Hanoi, according to Vietnam News.

“The three suggestions, contained in a draft population law, include a differential policy of birth rate flexibly according to regions so that in areas with high fertility rate of three children per woman, families would be encouraged to have fewer than two children whereas in areas where the fertility rate is low, parents would be encouraged to have two children.” The other two options would be to leave the law intact, or to repeal it altogether.

With the global population expected to balloon to 9.8 billion by 2050, it may be difficult to understand why experts are concerned over the drop in Vietnam’s birth rates. However, as the country tries to navigate the issue, it is clear that the birth rates aren’t the only concern. The location of the births is of equal importance.

The southern part of the country has the lowest fertility rate in the nation at 1.45 children per woman since 2015. The low birth rates in and around Ho Chi Minh City are not ideal because southern Vietnam is the most developed and offers the most sophisticated healthcare.

Comparatively, the total fertility rate (TFR) of the Mekong Delta region is between 1.5 and 1.6, according to Nguyen Van Tan of the General Office for Population and Family Planning. Not only have these numbers fallen in the past few years, the birth rate falls short of the TFR the country needs to sustain its population without migration, which is 2.1. On the other hand, in the less developed parts of the Central Highlands and the north, TFR rates hover around 2.3.

“Secretary Nguyen Thien Nhan told the media after a HCMC People’s Council meeting that Government efforts to maintain replacement fertility in the last decade are important for the ‘golden population’ period – where for every two people of working age, there is one dependent person, and is considered by the United Nations as the once-in-a-country’s lifetime ‘golden opportunity’ for socio-economic development,” said Vietnam Plus.

Tuoi Tre pointed out that the reasons for lower birth rates are complex, but mostly positive. Aside from citing high costs associated with child-rearing, “Parents in these [urban] areas are often better educated than their rural counterparts and seem more aware that having too many kids in a family can be a heavy burden. Women in big Vietnamese cities are also trending toward marrying later in life, a major factor in their decision to have only one child or, in some cases, no children after marriage.”

Unfortunately, as Vietnam’s population ages, the population’s low replacement rate will result in labor shortages and problems with elderly care. Nguyen Viet Tien, Deputy Minister of Health, warns against the “4-2-1 pyramid structure” where a sole child has to care for both parents and all four grandparents.

Other countries in Asia, such as South Korea, are facing the same difficulties. It appears that once a one or two-child mindset is absorbed into the culture, it is difficult to cast out.

[Photo via Pho Cap Boi]

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