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Social Problems in Asia (SOCG 218): Week 10

Population: Fertility Rates and Ageing

The framing of social problems

Week 10 is a continuation of Week 9's discussion on family as newborns and the elderly are both members of a family. While the two population-related issues are real issues, they can be framed according to the government’s interests. A low fertility rate can be argued either as a positive or a negative trend. A high fertility rate can be argued as a non-issue, as in the case of the Philippines. On the other hand, many poorer countries see fertility rates as a burden as governments in these countries struggle to feed their population. Ageing can also be framed either as a social problem (i.e. economic liability) or an economic asset  where older people’s experiences are valued. There have been suggestions to replace the stigma of ageing as an economic liability with the concept of "successful ageing", which in itself represents another kind of stigma.

Books mentioned in Syllabus


  1. Peter McDonald. 2009. “Explanations of Low Fertility in East Asia. A Comparative Perspective.” In Chapter 2, Gavin Jones et al (eds.) Ultra-low Fertility in Pacific Asia: Trends, Causes and Policy Issues. Routledge.
  2. S. Philip Morgan. 2003. “Is Low Fertility a Twenty-First – Century Demographic Crisis?” Demography 40(4): 589-603.
  3. Online materials on Philippines birth Control
  4. Menon, Jayant and Anna Melendez-nakamura. 2009. “Aging in Asia: Trends, Impacts and Responses.” Asian Development Bank. 
  5. Rozanova, Julia. 2010. “Discourse of Successful Aging in The Globe & Mail: Insights from Critical Gerontology.” Journal of Aging Studies 24: 213-222.
  6. King, Neal and Toni Calasanti. 2006. “Empowering the Old: Critical Gerontology and Anti-Aging in a Global Context.” In Jan Baars, et al. (eds). Aging, Globalization and Inequality: The New Critical Gerontology. Baywood Publishing. Chapter 8: 139-157. 
  7. Materials on Successful Aging in Singapore.
  8. Wong, Kai Wen. 2013. “Futures of Ageing in Singapore.” Journal of Futures Studies 17(3): 81-102.

Optional Readings

  1. Gavin W. Jones. et al. 2009. “Very Low Fertility in Pacific Asian Countries.” In Chapter 1, Gavin Jones et al (eds.) Ultra-low Fertility in Pacific Asia: Trends, Causes and Policy Issues. Routledge.
  2. Bautista, Julius. 2010. “Church and State in the Philippines: Tackling Life Issues in a ‘Culture of Death’”. Sojourn 25(1): 29 – 53.

Latest Articles from the Journal of Population Research

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1. Reports on efforts to control the Philippines birth rate

CNN's Anna Coren reports on efforts to control the birth rate in the Philippines

2. Birth Control Efforts in Rural Philippines

Fears of overfishing lead to birth control efforts in villages around the Philippines. This PBS documentary reports on the view of people who have been facing immediate issues of having too many children.

3. The Philippines, birth control and the Roman Catholic church (part 1-3)

In the next 30 years the population of the Philippines is set to double to 170 million. Contraceptives are frowned on and abortion is illegal but as Sharmeen Obaid-Chinay reveals, every year more than half a million Filipina women are so desperate they undergo harrowing illegal abortions, despite the fact that at least 80,000 end up seriously ill in hospital.

4. A Question of Faith

In the Philippines, access to contraceptives is largely out of the reach of the poor. A "reproductive health bill" in the legislature that calls for public education on birth control and government subsidies to make it available to everyone has the support of 70% of Filipinos, polls show. But the measure has been blocked for years amid vehement opposition by the Roman Catholic Church.

Watch it here!

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