Deputy Director of the Population and Family Planning Department, Le Canh Nhac, spoke with Hai quan (Customs) online newspaper about population and family planning in Vietnam.

*Vietnam is still experiencing a golden population structure. This means that for every two people working, there is only one dependent person. However, the Vietnamese population is ageing rapidly. What are the population challenges faced by Vietnam?

Vietnam started to step into the so-called golden population structure in 2007 and it is predicted that it will last for about 30-40 years. The structure is a chance to use the plentiful human resources for socio-economic development and improvement of the human resource for increasing social welfare, health care, education and job for future.

The golden population structure has created not only opportunities but also challenges to the country as the labour force was big in quantity but low in quality due to lack of skilled labourers and limits in management skills.

In addition, there is a rapidly ageing population. This is unavoidable in every country with socio-economic development and big improvements in people's lives. Vietnam's population is ageing at historic speed due to growing life expectancy and reduced births and deaths.

*Vietnam is facing a growing imbalance between boys and girls at birth. There are now significantly more boys born than girls. How will this affect society?

The sex imbalance has become a hot topic in the mass media since 2006. The increase is expected to have many unexpected effects on society and security - especially when the young start thinking of marriage.

A surplus of males would probably lead to the breakdown of family structures. It would force many men to marry late and many to have no chance of finding a partner.

The sex imbalance not only lowers the position of women but also deepens gender inequality. For instance, many women would have to marry earlier, increasing the chances of divorce and remarriage for women. There is also the likelihood of prostitutes becoming commonplace to ease the situation - and more human trafficking. So, the sex imbalance is an important way of measuring levels of gender inequality.

*What are the future population risks faced by Vietnam?

There are two existing problems, including the present rapid increase in population and the trend towards a more aged population. The country's population was 90 million in 2014 and is forecast to increase to 120 million in 2050.

This growth could put pressure on the nation's already declining natural resources. High population density in urban areas is already creating pressures on traffic, health care, education and the environment. And all of these fields are becoming overloaded.

The second challenge is the ageing population. There is an increasing number of elderly people living alone and many more old couples. The elderly also have to spend an average of eight times more on medical services due to their increasing years.

The biggest challenge for the health-care system is that the country has only one national geriatrics institute. It is situated in Hanoi. There are a few geriatrics facilities in some provincial hospitals.

The ageing population increases pressure on the healthcare and pension system because retirees are generally living much longer than a decade or so ago.

The monthly pension and social welfare are an important income source for the elderly, however coverage [because the country's rate of people involvement in social insurance was low] of these programmes is still low.

With a society with an ageing population, job structure will change [because retired people or the dependent people will be bigger than those still in working age] and create heavier economic burdens for the younger generation. All these difficulties will be a huge challenge if we do not draw up proper policies and strategies.-VNA