Saturday, September 10, 2011

Population Control 1: Ageing population, Globalization and the RH Bill

I am starting a new discussion series on "Population Control", a sequel to the "Responsible Parenthood Cannot be Legislated" which has Parts 1-5 this year (April 5, April 6, May 22, July 21, and August 8, 2011, respectively). For Part 1 of this new series, I am posting my three earlier papers on the subject of population, below.

(1) Ageing population: more government health spending or less?

March 14, 2008

I read today that the HK government is planning a new healthcare reform policy since  "The city of 7m people has the world's second highest life expectancy and one of its lowest birth rates. The proportion of elderly people in Hong Kong is expected to double within the next 20 years to reach one in four by 2033... a steep rise in public health expenditure, with annual per capita spending quadrupling by 2033."

The same problem in Europe, Japan, north America. I wonder, what can help the elderly more in those countries: more government spending in public health care (ie, more taxes from those who are in the labor force), or more migration of foreign health workers and caretakers, and the elderly and their families will take of themselves without the need for higher taxation and bigger public health expenditures?

Most rich country governments take the first option while clamping down on the entry of more foreign health workers. A third option is developing in some poorer countries: development of "retirement villages" for foreign retirees -- beautiful subdivisions and villages, have their own hospitals and clinics, near the beach, tropical climate. Children of retired Koreans, Japanese, Europeans, etc. bring
in their ageing parents and enjoy the tropics, the children and grandchildren come to visit them occasionally and enjoy as well the tropics' sun, white sand beaches, golf courses, etc. This trend is slowly catching up here in the Philippines.

The so-called "brain drain" of health workers in poorer countries like the Philippines is a myth. For every 1 nurse that leaves the Philippines to work abroad, at least 2 or more new nurses are graduating to take their place, even temporarily. After several years, some of those nurses and health workers who have worked abroad come back, not as a ageing nurses, but as investors in some new hospitals or clinics or other business enterprises.


(2) On Reproductive Health bill

February 23, 2009

Last November, I was interviewed by email by the editors of "The Varsitatrian", the official student publication of the University of Santo Tomas (UST), Manila, on the Reproductive Health (RH) bill in Congress.

Below is the news item as posted in their online publication, dated February 6, 2009.

Gov’t should not spend on family planning, expert says

THE GOVERNMENT should not dictate the number of children couples must have and instead let families decide for themselves, the head of an economic think-tank has said.

Amid fierce debate over Reproductive Health Bill 5043, Bienvenido “Nonoy” Oplas, Jr., president of Minimal Government Thinkers, Inc., said the state has no role in curbing population size and the bill will only expand the government, which is already bloated and inefficient.

Oplas said the parents should plan their own families without intervention from the government.

“There is no ‘desirable population growth’ to be set by the State. The couples will decide the desirable size of their household based on the couples and their support system’s (clan, extended family, relatives, friends, voluntary charity system) capacity to support every additional child,” Oplas told the Varsitarian. “The state should not spend taxpayers’ money on condoms.”

Advocates of the RH bill argue that a national reproductive health law should be crafted to control the rising population, now at around 90 million.

When signed into law, RH bill will pave the way for massive government spending on artificial methods of family planning, including over-the-counter contraceptives.

Oplas explained that the economy can benefit from either a fast or slow population growth rate.

A slow increase in the population size is ideal if “there is high poverty already.” In this case, parents should be responsible enough to provide their children “good education, nutrition, and health care.”

“The economy can (also) benefit from high population growth, if the government will not intervene heavily in business — people starting their own businesses, hiring and firing people, and easier mobility across countries and continents of people and their goods and services,” he added.

To ease poverty, the government should pour resources into creating more jobs and reducing taxes, Oplas said.

“The State should over-regulate murderers and rapists, over-spy embezzlers

and robbers, over-persecute land-grabbers and kidnappers, and should hit hard on criminals,” Oplas said. “If the government will stay out of the bedroom, there is no need to legislate this bill and related type of proposals.”

Changes in the bill

In any case, Oplas said the RH bill would be acceptable as long as it would not require married couples to attend seminars about nutrition and breastfeeding. More importantly, the bill must not impose family-planning education on elementary and high school students.

“These things the couple can learn from their parents, friends, neighbors, and associates. They need not pay additional fees to local government and spend additional hours or days on additional requirements,” he said.

“If [family-planning education] will become mandatory, then other groups will also lobby strongly that environment and climate change, that drug abuse, that gender equality, be made mandatory for all classes from elementary to high school. Goodbye math and science and grammar. Students will be learning subjects forced on them by lobbyists, and not what they will need in the future,” Oplas said. 
-- Prinz P. Magtulis

(3) Population and Globalization

July 01, 2009

In a hypothetical situation where government immigration regulations are absent, State-welfare programs are very few and limited to, say, emergency health care and to persons with disabilities, and governments focus their resources in protecting the people’s basic rights – right to life, right to private property, right to liberty – people will be criss-crossing between islands, countries and continents in full economic freedom. Not to commit crime as they will be hounded and intimidated by a strong State that will monitor and arrest all criminals. Not to seek and depend on welfare as there is very little to expect, but to find the best economic and social opportunities for them and their family.

This would mean that the bulk of raising families and developing peaceful and clean communities will fall on individual and parental responsibilities, and corporate and voluntary organizations. Each voluntary association – village or homeowners’ associations, professional organizations, student councils, labor unions, employers’ confederations, sports clubs, civic clubs, religious and faith-based organizations, etc. – will act as “local governments”. Since these are voluntary associations and not rigid bureaucracies like government bodies and agencies that do not die, such voluntary organizations have the prospect of dying anytime, anywhere, when their members will stop supporting them. Which means that only really useful organizations will survive, the badly-run and corrupt organizations will become bankrupt, like any private enterprise.

Many rich and developed countries are experiencing slowing or declining population growth since the 90s. But even if population growth rate will touch the negative territory, say -0.2 percent per year, absolute population does not automatically fall because of longer lifespan of people there. Birth rates fall but death rates also fall as instead of dying at age 75, people die at 80+ on average.

The only problem here is that many of those 70+ years old people are retirees and are depending on pension from the State. Since the pension system there is quite generous and expensive, the weight of paying the taxes and pension insurance to finance the monthly needs of the retirees will fall on the shoulders of the current batch of workers. And since the ratio of the economically-active population to the retired population is declining, there is a big danger to the generous welfare and pension system if many of the currently active population will migrate and work elsewhere, as the latter are threatened with longer mandatory retirement age, from the previous 65 to 75 years or older. The current breed of workers is being forced to work longer in order to maintain the expensive welfare system.

There are three important policy options to address this long-term problem.

One, encourage (and subsidize) couples to have more children, and those children will become future workers to finance the pension and welfare needs of their parents, grandparents and other older people. But then there is also a possibility that those future workers will work and live elsewhere, not in their home countries.

Two, have more machines and robots to do the work of some people. This means more efficient washing machines, cooking sets, house cleaners, robot welders, assemblers, manufacturers, etc. This will drastically increase productivity per worker, no doubt about it. But then this is still not the equivalent of seeing plenty of children playing and running in the parks, playing with their grandparents. Instead, the oldies are adopting dogs, cats and other pets as their companions and occasional playmates.

Three, allow more foreign workers to work and migrate into their home countries. This seems to be a combination of the first two options: more people who would sometimes work tirelessly like robots as the salary and benefits are a lot better compared to those available in their own countries, thus these foreign workers do not want to lose their current jobs. The problem though is the cultural and economic insecurity posed by these foreign-born workers to the locals of the rich countries. They came from countries with different religion, different work ethics, different lifestyle, different language.

For many rich countries, all 3 options above are being done, except that they are stricter and more bureaucratic in adopting the last option. That is where immigration problems never cease to die. The welfare system is very expensive to maintain, that is why taxes and local labor costs are very high. So some employers want to hire foreign workers who are willing to work at lower pay, but protectionist labor interests are opposing this.

In an environment of free and full mobility of labor, capital and technology across countries and continents, there should be “equalization” of the prices of labor (wages) and capital (interest) over the long-term. This is because the labor-abundant countries will experience migration of their excess workers, while labor-deficient countries (a result of low population growth and/or fast economic growth) will receive the excess labor from elsewhere. The less-skilled workers from poorer countries will soon become high-skilled as they get more education and training in their newly-adopted countries.

The lazy and irresponsible people in rich countries do not like this situation. They are envious to see people born from poor and God-forsaken countries but have high ambitions and high individual responsibility, soon have economic standings equivalent to them, if not higher.

And this illustrates the beauty and fairness of globalization, of people mobility across the globe, of free trade and free market, of personal responsibility and individual liberty. The system of reward and punishment is very clear and very quick. The industrious will prosper; the lazy and complacent will become poor. Big governments attempt to force equality among people by subsidizing the lazy and irresponsible and penalizing the industrious, through confiscatory high taxes

See also  Responsible parenthood cannot be legislated, Part 5, August 08, 2011, and
Responsible parenthood cannot be legislated, Part 4, July 21, 2011

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