NTA Bulletin

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The National Transfer Accounts (NTA) project addresses the impact of demographic change on economic growth, inequality, public finances, and the economic resources available to children and the elderly. The project includes research teams in 35 countries, with core activities based at the East-West Center and the Center on the Economics and Demography of Aging at the University of California, Berkeley. By providing estimates of income, consumption, saving, and other resource flows for each age group, NTA adds an important dimension to measures of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and other widely used indicators that are critical for formulating economic policy.

In 2011, the NTA project initiated the NTA Bulletin, a series of short publications that summarize the results of NTA research for a broad policy audience. This series is produced with support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada.

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Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 10 of 13
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    What do we learn when we "count women's work?"
    (Honolulu, HI : National Transfer Accounts, East-West Center, 2018-03) National Transfer Accounts Project
    Standard measures of economic activity leave out one extremely important component of production and consumption―the unpaid care and household services most often provided by women. Unpaid services―such as cooking, cleaning, and caring for children and the elderly―add considerable value both to family welfare and to national economic output. Adding unpaid services to measures of economic activity shows that women are not an "untapped" source of labor. Policymakers looking to increase female participation in the formal labor market need to keep in mind that women are already working as much or more than men. In some societies, the time that adolescent girls and young women spend on unpaid housework may be limiting the time they have available to pursue an education. Taking account of unpaid care and housework substantially increases the cost of raising children but also shows that the elderly, who often contribute substantially to care and housework, are not as heavy a burden on their families as sometimes suggested.
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    Sharing the demographic dividend : findings from low- and middle-income countries in Asia
    (Honolulu, HI : National Transfer Accounts, East-West Center, 2017-12) National Transfer Accounts Project
    Recent work by NTA teams in Asia has shed light on how both the contributions and benefits associated with population change are shared-—among age groups, between genders, among income groups, and between urban and rural residents. Better insights into these distributional issues can potentially help policymakers maximize the potential of demographic change to stimulate economic growth and reduce the disparities among population groups.
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    Counting women's work : measuring the gendered economy in the market and at home
    (Honolulu, HI : National Transfer Accounts, East-West Center, 2017-01) National Transfer Accounts Project
    The Counting Women's Work (CWW) initiative is measuring the full economic contribution of women, including paid work in the marketplace and unpaid care and housework at home. This issue of the NTA Bulletin describes the project and reports some illustrative results from Ghana, Mexico, Senegal, the United States, and Vietnam. These examples demonstrate how CWW analysis makes it possible to quantify the differences between men and women in market work and wages, the excess total work time that most women spend relative to men, the potential barrier that household responsibilities represent to women's education and career development, and the "hidden" costs of children.
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    Population change and the economic security of older people in Asia
    (Honolulu, HI : National Transfer Accounts, East-West Center, 2016-09) National Transfer Accounts Project
    Populations are growing older everywhere in the world, but the pace of population aging in Asia is unprecedented, primarily linked to rapid fertility decline. Asia's rapid population aging has led to policy concerns about how the region's growing elderly populations will be cared for and supported. How many of today's elderly remain in the workforce, and how much do they earn? To what extent do they support themselves from assets acquired during their working years? How do families and governments meet the needs of elderly people who consume more than they produce? And what does the future hold? Analysis by the National Transfer Accounts (NTA) project suggests that capital accumulation can potentially make a strong contribution toward meeting the needs of Asia's growing elderly populations. If the needs of the elderly are met through greater reliance on saving during the working years, then population aging will lead to an increase in assets that also has favorable implications for economic growth. Investment in human capital is another important response to population aging. Improvements in the productivity of each worker--fostered by investment in child health and education--can help maintain economic growth even as the working-age population shrinks relative to the elderly. The sheer speed and scale of population aging in Asia add a sense of urgency as policymakers start planning for a grayer future. Leaders would do well to learn from the policy mistakes of advanced economies, including fiscally unsustainable pension systems and rigid requirements for early retirement. Once inappropriate old-age support programs become entrenched, they become politically very difficult to reverse. By contrast, programs that invest in children's health and education and foster capital accumulation will ensure support for tomorrow's elderly populations while sustaining economic growth that benefits everyone.
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    National Transfer Accounts and demographic dividends
    (Honolulu, HI : National Transfer Accounts, East-West Center, 2016-07) National Transfer Accounts Project
    Demographic dividends are economic benefits that arise from changes in population age structure and from other demographic forces, enhancing opportunities for economic development. As falling fertility results in fewer dependent children relative to workers, a country experiences a first demographic dividend, with resources becoming available to increase investments and raise standards of living. The economic boost can be substantial, but it eventually comes to an end as the smaller population of children grows up to become a smaller population of workers while the number of elderly keeps growing. Depending on the choices made by families and the policies pursued by governments, however, the first dividend can direct more resources into pro-growth investment, resulting in a second, more long-lasting, demographic dividend. National Transfer Accounts (NTA) analysis over the past few years points to two important channels through which this occurs. For one thing, changing demography can lead to higher rates of saving and investment. A working-age population facing a long period of retirement has a powerful incentive to accumulate assets. The second channel is through human-capital investment. Countries with low fertility invest more in the education and health of each child, and the improved skills and capabilities of each worker can more than compensate for the slower growth of the work force. For the many countries currently experiencing a first demographic dividend, NTA can help understand how the benefits can be accelerated, prolonged, and directed toward important development goals. Other countries, which have completed the first dividend, can use NTA to understand how economic benefits can be sustained and how governments and families can best prepare for population aging.
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    Population change and economic growth in Asia : new findings from the National Transfer Accounts (NTA) project
    (Honolulu, HI: National Transfer Accounts, East-West Center, 2015-11) National Transfer Accounts Project
    Population age structures are changing everywhere in the world, but nowhere has the change been more rapid or dramatic than in Asia. And changing age structures can have a profound effect on wellbeing and economic growth. How many consumers and producers are there in a population? How much do they earn and how much do they consume at every stage of life? To what extent do the elderly support themselves from assets acquired during their working years? And how do families and governments meet the needs of children and the elderly who consume more than they produce? The National Transfer Accounts (NTA) project is bringing together data and developing analytical tools to help answer these important questions. By providing estimates of income, public and private transfers, and consumption and saving by age, NTA adds an important dimension to measures of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and other widely used economic indicators. In 2014, the Asia Pacific Regional Office of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA APRO) and the East-West Center launched a project to expand and update NTA analysis in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Bangladesh and Malaysia joined the group later. The project includes national-level training, south-south exchange visits, NTA research-based policy briefs, and regional meetings showcasing best practices and progress in the NTA project, including comparisons with findings from other NTA member countries. This issue of the NTA Bulletin highlights early findings from this expansion of NTA analysis in the region.
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    Human-resource development and demographic change in China
    (Honolulu, HI: National Transfer Accounts, East-West Center, 2014-10) National Transfer Accounts Project
    China’s economic success in recent decades can be traced in large part to the mobilization of the country’s enormous human-resource base. Improvements in the health and education of China’s huge working-age population have made a strong contribution to economic growth. Looking ahead, as today’s large cohorts of workers grow older and transit into retirement, much smaller cohorts of children—born in an era of very low fertility—will be growing up and joining the workforce. Given a smaller number of workers, human-resource development that maximizes the potential of each individual will be even more central to China’s efforts to achieve broad social and economic development goals. At this point, China is poised to address many of its human-resource challenges successfully. Public spending on education, and to a lesser extent on healthcare, appears to be commensurate with the current level of development. There is one important exception to this generalization, however—the disparity in spending on higher education. Although university enrollment tripled in the 10 years between 2000 and 2010, rural and lower-income young people still face clear disadvantages. Improving economic security for the elderly is another challenge. Under China’s current, highly fragmented public pension scheme, pension programs for urban and formally employed citizens are relatively well established and generous, but rural residents and those employed in the informal sector do not have adequate access to public pension programs and, thus, remain highly vulnerable in their old age. Extending public pension programs to these groups will be challenging in the face of a slowly growing workforce and a swelling elderly population. One policy change that would help address this challenge would be to raise the retirement age. As its population ages, China should be prepared to make better use of the productive potential of older people. Overall, successful human-capital investment is essential for achieving sustainable economic growth and improving the wellbeing of all age groups.
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    Population change and economic growth in Africa
    (Honolulu, HI: National Transfer Accounts, East-West Center, 2013-08) National Transfer Accounts Project
    In June 2013, the United Nations (UN) released its latest set of biennial population projections, World Population Prospects. One of the most striking changes comes from Africa, where fertility estimates for many countries have been revised substantially upwards. Apart from increasing the total number of people who must be supported on a limited resource base, high fertility has a strong distorting effect on population age structure. High-fertility populations are dominated by large numbers of dependent children, leaving few resources to boost current consumption or to save and invest for the future. In this situation, rapid fertility decline can lead to an immediate acceleration of economic growth, which has been termed the “first demographic dividend.” Investment of the resources gained from this demographic jump-start can usher in a “second demographic dividend,” providing the basis for sustained economic development. What does the future hold for Africa? In order to achieve a robust demographic dividend, policymakers in Africa’s high-fertility countries need to focus first and foremost on fertility decline. The second policy priority is to increase investment in the health and education of children. All over the world, per capita investment in children has tended to increase as fertility goes down. It is important that African countries follow this path, both to assure the wellbeing of children today and to boost the productivity of the workforce tomorrow. Investments in children do not achieve a maximum economic impact, however, unless they are accompanied by a robust job market. If young adults can find productive employment, they will be able to enjoy higher consumption, invest in their own children, and set money aside for the future. In exploring alternatives for economic development, policymakers need to emphasize job growth for young workers. Finally, governments need to create an economic environment that helps working-age populations save and invest. Well-functioning financial markets, a strong banking system, secure property rights, a competitive economy, and financial literacy all play a role in assuring the economic security of all age groups.
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    How well do societies meet the consumption needs of all age groups?
    (Honolulu, HI : East-West Center, 2012-06) National Transfer Accounts Project
    A steady, adequate level of consumption is a critical measure of wellbeing at every stage of life. Working-age adults support their consumption largely through labor income. But an important concern for families and policymakers alike is to support the education, healthcare, and other consumption needs of children and the elderly, who generally earn little income of their own. Until recently, little has been known about consumption patterns among specific age groups or how these might be affected as population age structures change over time. But now the National Transfer Accounts (NTA) project is bringing together and analyzing information on private and public consumption at every age, covering economies at widely varying stages of economic development. In general, NTA findings show that societies meet the consumption needs of broad population age groups--children, working-age adults, and the elderly--fairly equitably. This general pattern holds whether societies are rich or poor and whether people rely largely on families, governments, or financial markets to support their consumption. There are some interesting variations, however. The consumption of children is lowest, relative to the consumption of working-age adults, in poor, high-fertility societies. As low fertility results in smaller numbers of children, governments and families alike have an opportunity to invest more in each child's health and education. NTA findings show that some economies are meeting this challenge better than others. In some, but not all, high-income economies, consumption rises very steeply among the oldest age groups, while in middle- and low-income economies, consumption tend to be flat throughout old age. High per capita consumption by the elderly poses two important policy questions. First, are current consumption patterns based on the values of a society, or do they reflect waste and inefficiency, particularly within healthcare systems? And second, will current high consumption costs be sustainable as elderly populations expand?
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    Lower-income countries and the demographic dividend
    (Honolulu, HI : East-West Center, 2012-12) National Transfer Accounts Project
    Over the past 60 years, population age structures have been changing everywhere in the world. As the share of national populations at working ages has grown relative to the share of dependent children, many of the world's fastest-growing economies have enjoyed a substantial demographic dividend that has helped accelerate economic growth. Eventually, the share of the working-age population goes down, and the elderly portion of the population goes up. Improvements in life expectancy reinforce the effects of low fertility to produce populations that are much more concentrated at older ages. This stage of population aging can act as a brake on economic growth because the number of consumers is growing more quickly than the number of workers. Alternatively, if resources generated by the first demographic dividend are invested in physical capital and in children's health and education and if workers save and invest to provide for their own retirement costs rather than drawing on the resources of younger generations, then population aging may generate a second demographic dividend. That is, the processes of fertility decline and population aging can promote economic growth by raising the amount of physical and human capital per worker. Lower-income countries with large child populations will not achieve a demographic dividend until birth rates decline and age structures shift away from a pattern that is dominated by large numbers of children. Investment in the health and education of each child is also important to boost the productivity of future workers. In addition to high fertility, many lower-income countries face high unemployment or underemployment among young adults. Policies and programs that improve labor participation rates and labor income are critical, particularly for young workers who comprise large segments of these populations. And finally, it is not too soon to think about the economic consequences of population aging.

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