A Tale of Two Countries

In our last post on DD, we promised to talk more about the extent to which research is key to reaping a demographic dividend. We'll be viewing this through two countries, Nigeria and Thailand.

Nigeria, like most African countries, seems to be on the brink of a demographic transition, as more people are getting better informed and have access to services and information to determine the size of their families. In instances where they have a choice, a lot of women are opting to delay pregnancy and also have fewer children. This is good progress but it can be better.

Thailand in 1970 had the population structure of most African countries today, including Nigeria. A pyramidal structure where the bulk of the population was dependent, being too young or too old to be economically active thus putting a strain on the working population.

 sources: www.prb.org, www.theodora.com

sources: www.prb.org, www.theodora.com

This strain can be seen simply at family level:

Consider two couples, A with six children and B with two. Assuming they earn an equal income, Couple A faces about three times more economic responsibility than B. They have to meet responsibilities of feeding, education, health care, clothing, etcetera, barely meeting necessities. Couple B however has fewer responsibilities, less spent on basic necessities and can afford to reach for luxuries, investments, leaving a legacy. On the long run, there is an endless strain on A’s resources such that with time, there may be need to compromise on quality. Their children may have to settle for average or less and in the economic scene, Couple A’s six children will not be able to favorably compete with Couple B’s two children. While Couple B’s family grows and becomes key players in the economy, Couple A’s stagnates and risks a decline.

The Thai government, seeing this risk of strain on their resources, both at micro and macro levels, carried out research into better ways of determining family size. The result was an expanded access to voluntary family planning services, as well as further research into simpler and quicker contraceptive methods.  By 1990, contraceptive use more than quadrupled from 15% in 1970, to over 70% and Thailand's birth rate decreased significantly from one woman having about five to six children to one woman having two. This began the demographic transition so that by 2010, the number of people in the working population significantly outweighed the dependents, lessening the strain on their finances and time.

 source: www.prb.org

source: www.prb.org

Today, about 47 years later, Thailand is recognized by the World Bank as "one of the great development success stories" in social and development indicators and stands as a testament of how great a tool research is for a country's development. Without research, these demographic information will not be available, hence no basis to compare these two countries in the first place. Research also provides facts that make it possible to put these countries side by side and make projections, looking at what has worked, what has not, what is yet to be done and how best to proceed.

C4C sees the need for research in replicating these successes in Africa, hence our passion for this in our DD initiative. We need to be fully aware of where we stand in health, education, employment and how to move forward in terms of investing in youth, one of our greatest assets. We need to start positioning our youth and we need to start today. In our next post, we will talk about just what we plan to do with research in DD!

Cover photo: ©thyblackman.com