Population Change and Economic Development in East Asia: Challenges Met, Opportunities Seized


Andrew Mason (ed.)

Contemporary Issues in Asia and the Pacific


Stanford: Stanford University Press

Available From: Stanford University Press
Publication Date: 2001
ISBN: 0-8047-4322-3
Binding: paper
Pages: xxii, 503


Population Change and Economic Development in East Asia: Challenges Met, Opportunities Seized is the fifth title in the East-West Center book series, Contemporary Issues in Asia and the Pacific, published by Stanford University Press.

The purpose of the volume is to provide a comprehensive answer to a simple question: "What role did population change play in East Asia's rapid economic development?" Answering the question is important because the extraordinary economic record of East Asian economies during their high growth era is central to current development policy debates. Previous studies have neglected the fundamental and important ways in which demographic forces have influenced economic growth and regional economic integration. Consequently, the significance of East Asia's remarkable decline in childbearing, the diminished rates of population growth, and the accompanying changes in age structure are not fully appreciated among individuals charged with framing and implementing programs designed to improve living standards throughout the world.

Two broad sets of issues are addressed. First, did rapid demographic change contribute to East Asian economic development? Specifically, what aspects of the region's development were influenced by demographic trends -- economic growth, inequality, the economic status of women? What were the mechanisms through which population influenced the East Asian economies? What institutional, political, social, and economic features conditioned the influence of population on development? Does the East Asian experience provide useful lessons for other developing countries, or is its experience unique? Second, what was the role of population policy in East Asia? What policies and programs were implemented and at what cost? What evidence is there that East Asia's population policies achieved their goals? Is it possible or likely that demographic outcomes were a product only of the region's rapid economic development? Or did population policies accelerate the transition to low fertility and slower population growth?

These issues are addressed through a detailed examination of the experience between 1960 and 1990 of six East Asian economies: Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia. Their distinctive approaches to population policies are compared and the important channels through which population change has affected economic development are examined. Among the issues investigated are the impact of population on productivity and innovation; economic structure; saving, investment, and international capital flows; international labor migration; human resource development; the distribution of income; and the economic status of women.

Understanding the connections between demographic change and the economy also sheds light on the future of East Asia. Many of the demographic changes examined here are persistent in nature and will influence the economies of East Asia for many decades. When East Asia's recent financial crisis has become a distant memory, demographic forces will still be exerting a deep and fundamental influence. With the exception of Japan, demographic conditions favor strong economic growth for several more decades. Only time will tell if the countries of East Asia will seize these continuing opportunities.


Details and ordering information at
Stanford University Press

  1. Population and Economic Growth in East Asia
  2. Economic Growth and Policy in East Asia
  3. Population in East Asia
  4. Induced Innovation and Agricultural Development in East Asia
  5. The Accumulation and Demography Connection in East Asia
  6. Saving, Wealth, and the Demographic Transition in East Asia
  7. Savings, Capital Formation, and Economic Growth in Singapore
  8. Population, Capital, and Labor
  9. Education and the East Asian Miracle
  10. Child Health and Health Care in Indonesia and the Philippines
  11. Education, Earning, and Fertility in Taiwan
  12. Changing Labor Forces and Labor Markets in Asia's Miracle Economies
  13. The Role Played by Labor Migration in the Asian Economic Miracle
  14. Demographic Change, Development, and the Economic Status of Women in East Asia
  15. Population and Inequality in East Asia
  16. Population Policies and Family Planning Programs in Asia's Rapidly Developing Economies


"This is a huge contribution to the most important demographic issue of the past two centuries, the importance of population growth in the process of economic development. The book reaches the decisive conclusion that population matters, and that age structure contributed dramatically to East Asia's stunning economic performance."

--David E. Bloom, Harvard University


"This is a high-quality book, written by authors who are area specialists, many of them also involved in the theoretical debates underlying our current understanding of demographic processes and the way they impinge on economic development. The subtitle of this book is well chosen. East Asian countries did indeed meet challenges and seize opportunities. Whether other developing regions will follow suit is an important and still unsettled question."

--Population and Development Review, June 2002


"This anthology contains 15 well-written papers specially written by prominent demographers and economists. . . . This volume will be useful for students of Asian economics, economic development, and demography. Upper-division undergraduate through professional collections."

--Choice, October 2002