Palau Needs To Address Its Low Total Fertility Rate

Tia Belau Editorial, June 17, 2013 —- 

Palau population has been shrinking from its high of 19,907 in 2005. As a matter of fact, the number of people living in Palau today – 17,445 – nearly matches the numbers recorded almost two decades ago in 1995, which was 17,225.

In terms of percentage of ethnic Palauans in the population, it’s virtually the same today at 72.5% as it was back in 1995 at 72.6%.

Overall population growth since 2005 is -1.9%, for alone Palauans its -1.6%. The negative growth reflects mainly on compact road construction coming to an end and the continued out-migration of Palauans.

Another factor for Palau’s declining population is the low total fertility rate (TFR). Palau’s TFR is 1.72 (2013 estimate by CIA World Factbook), which is way below the population replacement level.

TFR is a more direct measure of the level of fertility than the crude birth rate, since it refers to births per woman. This indicator shows the potential for population change in the country. A rate of two children per woman is considered the replacement rate for a population, resulting in relative stability in terms of total numbers. Rates above two children indicate populations growing in size and whose median age is declining.

By way of policy initiatives to address the low population growth of Palauans, two legislative measures were introduced in the last Olbiil Era Kelulau – 8th OEK.

No work was ever done on these bills after being approved on first readings and assigned to committees.

These include the bill introduced by former Del. Kalistus Ngirturong to provide incentives to families to have more children. The bill which was introduced in the 2009n October regular session states that “Because the reduced birthrate may contribute to a workforce shortage in the future, measure should be taken to encourage families to have multiple children and to provide for advance education. As an incentive, the bill seeks to appropriate $100,000 to be administered by the Family Growth and Education Fund Board to be used to qualified recipient. Each recipient will be awarded $1,000 and must be a fourth child of married parents who are Palauan residents and who are physically resides in Palau. The fund is limited only for educational purposes and will be awarded within 30 days of birth, and held in trust until the recipients 18th birthday.”

Another bill which receives much public discussion but not the lawmakers is cited as the “Population Growth Act of 2011” introduced by Sen. Hokkons Baules in October 2010 regular session.

Sen. Baules proposal is to “increase population growth in the Republic by banning the sale and distribution of condoms, birth control pills, and other forms of birth control contraceptives by businesses, non-government organizations, any government agency in the Republic, and any other organization or entity.”

The bill’s legislative findings states that birth control contraceptives have contributed to the stagnation of population grown on our island, and that a ban of on the sale and distribution of birth control contraceptives would have the positive effect of increasing the population growth rate of the Republic.

Regardless of how these bills appear to you, they are at least initiatives that have been proposed to address the low population growth of Palauans.

While everyone has their own opinion of how to address the low TFR, the latest population data revealed by the FY 2012 Economic Statistics presents an alarming issue facing the Republic.

Palau’s economy and culture depends more and more upon an increasing Palauan population not just to expand, but to simply sustain themselves. This is an issue which needs further attention.

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