Are we really overpopulated compared to our neighbouring Asian countries? Is rapid population growth the main reason for our poverty as a nation? Does slow birth rate automatically translate to a nation’s progress? What are the effects of slow population growth to a country and what are its implications to its future? There had been a lot of debates on population issues and the RH Bill in the past year. The debates and talks on these issues continue until now. This has prompted me to make my own study to verify what many people are saying about the population in our country. I didn’t want to simply accept what I read from the newspapers and the internet or hear from media men and women. I wanted to see the statistics myself; so I did some research and made my own computations.
I looked up the current populations of the Philippines and its neighbouring countries like Japan and Singapore, which are among the progressive and rich countries in Asia and the world today. I got the total land area of these countries and computed for their population densities. I also checked their income per capita and their ranking worldwide. I was surprised with my findings.
I found out that the Philippines has a slightly lower population density compared to Japan. Our population density based on the projected population for 2010 is 323 per square kilometer. Population density is computed by dividing the country’s population with its total land area. Japan’s population density is 336. What shocked me the most was that Singapore’s population density (7149) is 22 times bigger than that of the Philippines considering that our land area is 422 times bigger than theirs. If we look at the figures, we could safely say that Singapore is truly overpopulated and that it’s far more crowded compared to the Philippines. But why do we feel that the Philippines is already crowded because of overpopulation? Another interesting statistic explains why. Sixty-five percent (65%) of the total population in the Philippines is in the urban areas. In fact, Metro Manila is the 11th most populated metropolitan area in the world; while if we combine the population of Metro Manila and the other cities that comprise the greater Manila area, we would be ranked fifth in the world. So, are we overpopulated? Yes, we are… in the urban areas. But why are most Filipinos in the metros? Isn’t it that there are so many informal urban dwellers (squatters) who don’t have jobs but insist on living in the cities? Why not try to earn a living in the rural areas instead of becoming unemployed? Or maybe the government should channel and invest more budget and resources on providing jobs in the rural areas so that those informal urban dwellers that don’t have the skill set and the educational background to qualify in jobs in the metros can be encouraged to move to the rural areas.
Another interesting finding that I got was when I compared the per capita income of the three countries. Per Capita Income or income per person is the numerical quotient of national income divided by population, in monetary terms. The per capita income of Singapore is $20,066.00 per person. That’s 21 times bigger than our per capita income. Japan’s per capita income is $35,474.10 per person. That’s 38 times bigger than our per capita income which is only $920.19 per person. Why is that so? If Singapore is more crowded compared to the Philippines, why do they have a higher income per capita? Why is the per capita income in Japan far from the per capita income in the Philippines when our population densities are almost the same? In spite of their high population densities, Singapore is ranked 19th in the world while Japan is ranked 3rd in the world when it comes to per capita income. These statistics clearly show that overpopulation is not a deterrent to progress and growth. Do you want to know what our ranking is when it comes to per capita income worldwide? We are 109th. Why can Singapore and Japan generate that much income while we can’t? What’s stopping us? If it’s not population, then what could it be?
The economist, Julian Simon, in his book The Ultimate Resource argued that higher population density leads to more specialization and technological innovation, which in turn lead to a higher standard of living. According to him, human beings are the ultimate resource since we possess "productive and inventive minds that help find creative solutions to man’s problems, thus leaving us better off over the long run". He also said that, "Our species is better off in just about every measurable material way." Simon further says that if you considered a list of countries ranked in order by population density, there is no correlation between population density and poverty and famine. Instead, if you considered a list of countries ranked in order by corruption within their respective governments, there is a significant correlation between government corruption and poverty and famine.
Julian Simon, therefore, contradicts Malthus’ theory that population would eventually reach a resource limit (overpopulation), and any further increase would result in a population crash, caused by famine, disease, or war. So far, this theory of Malthus is yet to be backed by statistical evidence.
What have I learned so far with my little research? I learned once more that I should not accept everything that media feeds me. I should verify things before I accept them as truth. I also learned that the poverty in our country is not really caused by overpopulation but a mixture of bad governance, inequitable distribution of resources and failure of the government to provide enough jobs especially in the rural areas. Moreover, I realized that Simon is correct that human beings are the ultimate resource and that we should invest more funds on developing our people instead of putting an end to life. If the funds that the government intends to put on free condoms, contraceptives and sex education of young children would be channeled to the right areas (like education and employment opportunities) many poor Filipinos would be better off.
In a previous research I made in preparation for a presentation to college students last year, I discovered the current population problem of First World Countries and how this impacts their future. In Europe for example, they are trying to attract more migrant workers or overseas workers especially in the medical field because there is already an imbalance in the working population and in the senior citizens that depend on the state for support. Their slow birth rate and population growth becomes a liability now instead of an asset because they are slowly moving to the point wherein they will have less and less working people in their population. Their population is growing old faster than the rate by which children are born. Let us not look far. Let’s take the case of Japan. Japan is age¬ing at a higher rate than any other nation. It is estimated that there will be three pensioners for every child below 15 years old and that one in six people will be over 80 by the end of this decade. Their population will soon be falling by nearly a million people every year and some predict that, sometime in the next century, it’s possible that the last Japanese person will die. What did they do that led to their slow birth rate? What population policies did they adapt before? Let’s look closely and study the experience of these countries before we rally behind a birth control or population control policy like the RH Bill. Surely, we don’t want to bring ourselves to the same predicament in the future.
To say that controlling our population would be the answer to our nation’s poverty is a lie. Let us not allow ourselves to be fooled by the proponents of the RH Bill who instill fear for life instead of celebrating it. Life is both a gift and a responsibility. We need to learn how to use it to harness the many good that it can bring us. It is not easy to be responsible and disciplined. That is why many choose to put the blame on other people or other issues. But if we arm ourselves with truth and wisdom that comes from above, we can give ourselves and others the experience of a beautiful and abundant life.