Policy lessons of the East Asian demographic transition

Geoffrey McNicoll, Population Council

East Asia's striking experience of health and fertility transition is usually tied to well-designed government service programs catering to an existing or ideationally stimulated demand. An alternative interpretation sees demographic change--and uptake of services-—as a byproduct of development, together with, in some cases, strong government pressures. This paper seeks to identify common features of development design and administration that underlay the region's transition and derive lessons for policies elsewhere. The broad sequence entailed initially the establishment of an effective, typically authoritarian, administrative system, providing a framework for service delivery in health, education, and family planning; subsequent economic liberalization offered new opportunities for economic mobility-—but along with erosion of social capital and breakdown or privatization of service programs. Seven countries are considered, divided into three groups: "tiger" economies (Taiwan, South Korea), "second wave" countries (Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia), and "market-Leninist" economies (China, Vietnam). The period is the 1960s to the 1990s.

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Presented in Session 130: Role of population policy in development