Key Demographic Trends (Part 2)

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Demography is a science concerned with the analysis of the size, distribution, structure, characteristics, and processes of a population (Weeks 1994 in Rowland 2006, p. 16). There are three demographic components which determine the number and composition of the population. They are fertility, mortality, and migration.

This essay will describe three demographic trends in developing countries, especially in Indonesia. It will also explain how the trends will influence future social and economic conditions in these countries.


We can observe fertility trend by looking at total fertility rate (TFR). The trends of TFR in most developing countries are decreasing. In Indonesia, the TFR is decreased by three points from 5.6 in 1971 to 2.6 in 2002 (SDKI 2002).

There are four reasons for this decrease. First, there are more women who get higher education than before. Getting higher education degree means that she will graduate at older age, and this will force her to postpone entering marriage institution. The adjournment of marriage will automatically delay childbearing. There are more women participating in labor force because they manage to fulfill the educational requirements to be employed. These women spend more time to work outside home, so that they decide not to have many children (Khoo & McDonald 2003, p. 57). Educated women also get more access to family planning information (Bongaarts 2003; Lutz 1994). Bongaarts (2003) states that due to the accessibility to family planning information, highly educated women get a greater understanding of family planning methods, so that they are more willing to tolerate various side effects and inconveniences associated with the use of methods of contraception. They also have higher degree of autonomy in reproductive decision making. There are also more women who remain childless because they are busy with their career.

Second, the improvement in health care reduces the infant mortality rate (IMR). This condition ensures parents that their children will survive to adulthood. Consequently, they feel secure to have least children (Lutz 1994).

Third, urbanization is increasing so that there are many people live in urban area (Bongaarts 2003). Since the living-cost in cities is higher than in rural areas, many people decided to limit the number of children they have. New employees tend to delay childbearing because there is an agreement with their companies that they should not marry or pregnant within the first two years.

Another reason is the changes in social and economic conditions make children costly to be raised (O’Neill & Balk 2001). This situation forces people to reduce the number of children they have.

These reasons decrease the TFR in developing countries, especially in Indonesia. The low TFR in the future will bring some consequences. First, it may change the population age structure from pyramid to beehive shape, because the number of people under 15 years old is reduced. This change means that the dependency ratio is low because the number of people in productive age is more than the non-productive ones. The Indonesian Health and Demographic Surveys 2002 revealed that dependency ratio in Indonesia was decreased from 86 per 100 in 1971 to 54 per 100 in 2000. It is projected to fall to 44 per 100 within 2020 and 2030 if the TFR and the mortality rate continue to decline. It is predicted to rise afterwards since there will be many older people. The low dependency ratio is considered by many demographers as demographic bonus (Rowland 2006) because it may create an opportunity to free the society from poverty, and give a chance to improve the society welfare.

Despite the opportunities created by the low dependency ratio, it may also produce challenges because there will be more productive people who need to work and will compete to get a job. The government must make a good planning to provide employment and basic services such as basic health services, housing, and food.

The low TFR may decrease the number of dependants. This can lead to an increase in human development index (HDI); which is measured by three categories: income, education, and health; because the income per capita will be higher than before so that people will be able to get better education and health services.


The mortality trends is measured by infant mortality rate (IMR), maternal mortality rate (MMR), and life expectancy. The IMR and MMR in developing countries are declining. According to Indonesian HDS (2002), the IMR dropped from 46 in 1997 to 35 in 2002. The MMR fell steadily in the last decade from 390 in 1994 to 334 in 1997, and it reached 307 in 2002. Life expectancy in Indonesia is increased so that in 2002, the life expectancy for males is 64.3 years and for females is 68.2 years.

The downward trend in mortality may be due to better nutrition and the improvement in health services and facilities (O’Neill & Balk 2001). It may also due to improvement in women education as they know how to take care of themselves during pregnancy and how to take care of their children and family.

Lutz (1994) mentioned that the drop in IMR makes couples feel secure to have fewer children. Consequently, it will reduce the TFR.

The enhancement in health and life expectancy leads to an increasing in the number of ageing people who are still productive. They will demand job and compete for employment with younger people.

Ageing population may bring health problems because older people tend to suffer from degenerative diseases. They may cause financial problems too, since government must provide more money for their superannuation (Khoo & McDonald 2003, p. 11). In other words, the government expenditure to pay public pension will reduce the fund which can be allocated for the country’s social and economic development.


Migration flows from less developed countries to more developed or industrialized countries, and there is an increase in urbanization where rural inhabitants move to urban areas. Lutz (1994) argues that the reasons to migrate from a country to another can be political reason (to seek political asylum), economical (to get better income and improve living standard), educational (to get higher education), or environmental reason (to flee from severe environmental degradation or natural disaster). Furthermore, some government in developed countries stimulate migration intake by creating policy which attract the migrants to come into their countries to prevent population decline because of low fertility and population ageing (Khoo & McDonald 2003, p. 277).

Migration will alter the age profile in the migrant-sending as well as migrant-receiving communities (De Souza & Meyerson 2003). Less developed countries will suffer because the lack of high qualified human resources. It happens because only high qualified people are welcomed in industrialized countries. Thus, many qualified people from less developed countries migrate to industrialized countries. Migration can also cause lack of support and assistance for the elderly in less developed countries as many of the youth go abroad (Glaser et al. 2006).

On the other hand, urbanization may put the cities teeming with people under stress because they have to provide more housing, health care, education, and job. More and more people in these cities will compete for natural resources. The imbalance between the high demand on and the availability of natural resources can create environmental degradation and violent conflict.

Population density forces a number of people living on the streets. This condition makes them become vulnerable to drug abuse and the crime rate will rise.

These cities may suffer from pollution because more fossil fuels are burnt up. The pollution (water, air, and noise pollution), in turn, will create health problems.


The downward trends in fertility and mortality in developing countries can create opportunities for the government to improve the welfare of their societies. In fact, there will be a period called demographic bonus in which the government will have a great opportunity to get rid of poverty from their countries. However, they will also face a challenge to provide fundamental services and employment for their citizens.

Migration and urbanization can pose major challenges as well as advantages on future social and economic conditions. The government must be aware of these circumstances so that they will be able to handle it wisely and take necessary steps to overcome the difficulties which may arise.

By: Yulaecha Padma Ichwanny


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Survei Demografi dan Kesehatan Indonesia (SDKI) Tahun 2002/2003.