The family is one of the basic institutions of mankind. However, many societal forces (e.g. modernization, working parents, liberalized codes of sexual ethics) are eroding the beautiful Asian Socio-Cultural family values.
In some countries where population education is erroneously perceived as synonymous to family planning and where the letter is still a sensitive issue, there has been a shift towards family life education. It has been observed that in such a situation, fertility variables and other population factors are not reflected in a significant manner.
Fundamental Issues of Family Life Education
Adolescent fertility is an emerging concern in developing countries relating to Family Life Education. Data from the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) in Washington, D. C. estimate that 60 percent of the population in developing countries is under 25 years of age and 40 percent is under 15.
At least, 13 million births occur to adolescents every year. Worldwide, there were about 245 million women aged 15-19. Eighty-two percent lived in developing countries and three-quarters of them were to be found in Asia. This is projected to increase by 75 million in the developing countries by the year 2020.
While some countries still have a low mean age at marriage, the mean age at marriage in many countries is increasing. On the other hand, young people nowadays are reaching physical maturity earlier as a result of improved nutrition and health.
While the increasing age at marriage is fulfilling the attainment of delayed marriage, which is one of the objectives of population education.
Late marriage is giving rise to some adolescent fertility-related problems in some countries such as premarital sexual activity, teenage pregnancies, illegal abortions and illegitimate births.
Teenage pregnancies and birth in turn are associated with increased health risks to the mother and infant, curtailed education, reduced employment potential, and high population growth rate.
In recognition of adolescent fertility or sex-related problems, there have been sporadic attempts in some countries to address this concern. In one or two countries in the region, some aspects of sex education have been included in population education.
In several countries, sex education is pursued by voluntary and non-governmental organizations, but their outreach is limited. In most countries, the education sector has been reluctant to go beyond the study of human reproduction in biology since sex education is a sensitive issue.
Similarly, there is also some reservation on the part of population educators in most countries about dealing with adolescent fertility for fear that this might jeopardize the acceptance of population education programs.
Aging of the Population
Nowadays, more people are surviving to old age as a result of improved working conditions, higher standards of living, control of diseases, and availability of health care.
While the phenomenon of the aging population is closely associated with the developed industrialized countries, it is also increasingly becoming a feature of the developing countries.
The current estimate of the older population, that is, people 65 years and over, in the developed countries is about 185 million or over 15 percent of the total population. While only 5 percent of the population of developing countries is in this age group.
The absolute number of older persons is already 230 million. Between 1985 and the year 2000. In the developing countries this ratio was a 57 percent increase in the number of older persons as against only a 26 percent increase in the developed countries.
The 1985 ESCAP Population Data Sheet shows that 4.8 percent of the population in the Asian and Pacific region belong to the age bracket of 65 and over.
In absolute number, this means a total of about 130 million elderly. By the year 2000, the percentage of the old population in the region shall increase to 5.9 percent or about 200 million people.
The increase in an absolute number of older people will have wide-ranging implications for the social and economic institutions in society and for the family. At the societal level, this increase would indicate a corresponding increase in the need for medical, housing, economic, and other social services.
At the family level, this might indicate a changing pattern of roles, functions and relationships because families are becoming smaller, more mobile and independent of extended kin relationships and some of the responsibilities for providing security for the aged are shifting from families to the government.
In the traditional set up of Asian families, the elderly are looked upon to help care for the young, give advice and guidance in the light of their experience and wisdom.
The young, in turn, respect the old and care for and support them when they are no longer physically capable of looking after themselves.
However, there is now a growing tendency on the part of the younger members of the family to depended less and less on their elders for companionship, guidance and resolution of their problems and to feel that it is no longer their role and responsibility to support and care for their elders.
The erosion of the Asian traditional values of respect and care for the elderly and the utilization of their experiences and wisdom in enhancing the quality of life of the family and the community is slowly but surely becoming barely perceptible.
Urbanization or Migration
There is a continuing rural to urban migration contributing to rapid urban population growth. The 1985 United Nations statistics showed that more than 40 percent of the world population lives in urban areas.
In 1970 the total urban population of the more developed regions was almost 30 million more than those in the less developed countries.
By the year 2015, the urban population of developing countries is expected to be almost double that of the developed countries and by the year 2025 four times large. The urban population growth in developing countries and is generally concentrated on, the very large cities.