November 17, 2023
HANOI – Despite maintaining replacement level fertility, Việt Nam is currently grappling with a significant disparity in birth rates across regions. While 33 provinces exhibit high birth rates, 21 provinces and cities are experiencing low birth rates, with some reaching alarming levels.
At a recent workshop on “Low Birth Rate in Việt Nam: Current Situation and Solutions”, organised collaboratively by the Population Bureau of the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Việt Nam Gynaecology Association in Hà Nội, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyễn Thị Liên Hương, Deputy Minister of Health, underscored these concerns.
Hương highlighted that low birth rates are not limited to urban areas with developed economies but are prevalent in many provinces facing socio-economic difficulties. Out of the 21 provinces and cities in Việt Nam with low birth rates, some are experiencing extremely low levels.
According to Deputy Minister Nguyễn Thị Liên Hương, globally, birth rates have continuously declined, reaching exceptionally low levels compared to replacement rates in European countries, South Korea and Japan. This trend leads to labour shortages and issues related to aging population and care for the elderly. Projections indicate a global labour shortage after 2055, affecting human development – a major challenge for humanity in the 21st century.
While Việt Nam has achieved significant milestones in population management, successfully controlling population growth since 2006 and reaching the golden demographic in 2007, Hương highlighted the stark regional differences in birth rates. This imbalance is particularly concentrated in the southeast, Mekong Delta and coastal areas of central Việt Nam.
Provinces with low birth rates, with a population of approximately 37.9 million, account for about 39.4 per cent of the national population, significantly impacting the country’s sustainable development. Hương noted that low birth rates are prevalent in the Mekong Delta region – an essential player in agriculture production and national food security.
Mai Trung Sơn of the Population Bureau added that birth rates in the southeast region have dropped significantly to 1.56, and the Mekong Delta region is at 1.8. Sơn emphasised that if these rates fall below 1.3, there is almost no chance of recovery to replacement levels.
To address the prolonged consequences of low birth rates, Hà Anh Đức, an official from the Ministry of Health, shared insights into policy interventions for birth rates in Asia-Pacific countries.
Đức highlighted that the Asia-Pacific region has experienced a substantial decline in total fertility rates over the past decades, affecting not only high-income countries. Thailand has reached replacement-level fertility since 1990, while Việt Nam’s rate has dropped to approximately 2.1 since 2000. Đức emphasised the long-term repercussions of low birth rates, including rapid population aging, labour shortages, reduced economic competitiveness, lower purchasing power, and impacts on social welfare and healthcare costs.
International experience suggests that many countries have successfully reduced birth rates, but have not raised very low birth rates to replacement levels, even with significant policy incentives and large investments. In response to the disparities in birth rates, Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính approved the Birth Rate Adjustment Programme suitable for different regions and target groups by 2030.
The MoH also issued Decision 2324/QĐ-BYT outlining the Action Plan aiming to increase birth rates by 10 per cent in provinces and cities with low birth rates (average of fewer than 2 children per woman of childbearing age) by 2030. — VNS