A window of opportunity: some demographic and socioeconomic implications of the rapid fertility decline in Brazil
The dramatic change in the Brazilian demographic pattern in the last 30 years, that occurred as a consequence of fertility decline, undoubtedly corresponds to one of the most important structural changes of this century. It is an irreversible and non-conjunctural process that has to be considered in the short, medium and long terms. Between the 1940's and the 1960's, there was a significant decline in mortality with a relative stability in fertility, and this resulted in a rapid increase in the population growth rate without marked changes in the population age structure. In the following phase, the fertility decline produces not only a lagging population growth pace in the short term but also, a deep change in age distribution in the medium and long terms. Among the various social consequences of this demographic change. variations in social demands are outstanding. As young population varies in relative terms at a significant lower rate than that of elderly population, it should be kept in mind that the present moment, demographically speaking, is potentially favourable to work out some social problems afflicting the country. These questions would count on excellent conditions to be solved from the viewpoint of labour force which is increasing in absolute and relative terms. Possibility of expanding investments in education (coverage and teaching quality) is made easier by lower relative growth of schooling population, while the growth rate speed of elderly dependency ratio and thus the need for funds for retirement and health assistance is still relatively slower. The present favourable conditions brought about by the new population dynamics should be considered to effectively implement social policy. Considering the long term period, (1920/2100), one may say that Brazil is entering a sort of golden demographic stage. There is an exceptional circumstance for re-applying resources on children's welfare: health, nutrition, education, training and so on. Since quantity is dropping, investment may and must go to quality. Investments on infancy now might represent a double profit, since they will go into the labour force in 10 or 15 years time, when the elder dependency ratio will be fastly increasing. If the society invests in the quality of the current stock of children, the economy wilI certainly have a much better performance and the state will have enough resources for investment in social security and properly look after lhe elderly. Society will provide against lhe eventually heavy burden of a growing elder dependency by making of the educational provisions now its major government outlay.
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- Samuel Preston, 1984. "Children and the elderly: Divergent paths for America’s dependents," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 21(4), pages 435-457, November.
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