The Demographic Dividend in Lower-Income Countries and Global Reproductive Rights LawsMarch 14, 2013 By Maria Prebble
Many of the fastest growing countries in the world today are also the poorest. A recent bulletin from the National Transfer Accounts Project, “Lower Income Countries and the Demographic Dividend,” examines what it takes for lower-income countries to experience a demographic dividend and the economic growth associated with that period. Achieving the demographic dividend is dependent on a country achieving low fertility rates, which, when coming from a period of high growth, temporarily increases the ratio of the working-age population to dependents, like children and the elderly. For lower-income countries to do this, the report recommends that policymakers invest in healthcare and education programs and focus on boosting the labor force participation rate. Looking forward, the report advises that it is not too early for lower-income countries to begin developing social security and pension programs to support the latter stages of the demographic transition too.
In “Reproductive Health Laws Around the World,” a working paper published by Harvard’s Program on the Global Demography of Aging, authors Jocelyn E. Finlay, David Canning, and June Y. T. Po develop an index of global reproductive health laws – an important marker for women’s health advocates and component in lowering fertility rates and beginning the demographic transition. The report examines laws regarding access to abortion, intrauterine devices, condoms, contraceptive pills, and voluntary sterilization in 196 countries from 1960 to 2009. The systematic approach gives insight into trends in liberalizing reproductive health laws and allows comparison across countries and regions over time. The authors also examine the influence of socioeconomic factors, such as colonial origin, income per capita, and mean years of schooling, and religion. Overall, Finlay et al. find that more liberal reproductive health laws are associated with lower fertility rates and higher income per capita.