The expected growth is due to the decrease in mortality rates and increases in life-expectancy, said the booklet, titled Vietnam Population 2008.

“Even when the total fertility rate drops below replacement level and birth rates are declining, the absolute number of people will continue to increase for a period of approximately 20 years, or one generation, until members of the early baby boom pass through their reproductive years,” said Bruce Campbell, UNFPA Representative.

According to UNFPA, Vietnam’s total fertility rate, which estimates the average number of children a woman gives birth to in her lifetime, has fallen below the replacement level and reached 2.08 children per woman.

The replacement level is the number of births per woman necessary to assure the replacement of a population at the given mortality level.

While the whole of Vietnam is below this level, there are sub-national variations, such as the average of 1.84 children per woman in urban areas and 2.22 in rural areas, according to UNFPA.

Overall, fertility patterns have changed, with more first children being born to women of older age, said the group. Fertility is now mostly concentrated in the age range of 25-34 for urban women and 20-29 for rural women.

The national survey confirmed the continuing relationship between fertility and female education levels, said UNFPA, noting that high fertility is more prevalent among less educated women.

The booklet suggested that the country’s Population and Family Planning Program should continue to strive toward universal access to reproductive health services, including family planning.

Data on the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), an important development indicator, has declined from 16 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2007 to 15 in 2008.

In addition, the Crude Death Rate, which reflects the annual number of deaths per 1,000 population, is estimated at 5.3 per thousand, contributing to a decline in the natural increase of population rate to 11.4 per thousand and is lower than the 11.8 recorded in the 2007 survey.

The report also indicated that Vietnamese now preferred smaller families and also preferred boys to girls, as part of the long-held cultural norm.

Thus, many families stopped having babies after having a boy, prompting the ratio of boys to girls to increase from 110 to 100 three years ago to 112 to 100 last year.

By Bao Van - Thanh Nien News - May 30, 2009