Ten years from implementing the Population Ordinance project, the country faces a number of new challenges including volatile birth rates across different provinces and cities, gender imbalance at birth and an ageing population.

Director of the Ministry of Health's General Office for Population and Family Planning Duong Quoc Trong made the claims at a conference in Hanoi on September 24 to review results of the ordinance implementation.

Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan chaired the event.

The Population Ordinance project was issued in January 2003 by the National Assembly Standing Committee and came into effect four months later.

Despite remarkable achievements such as decreasing infant and prenatal deaths and ushering the nation into a golden population period, the workforce remained limited in quality, said Trong.

The golden population period refers to the present time when the majority of the population are of working age. However, this is the only a period in the course of population transition and challenges lay ahead.

"This period offers abundant labour resources and creates an opportunity to generate a large number of materials for the future, but there will be great challenges if workforce quality does not improve," he said.

In 2009, only 13.4 percent of youths aged 15 and over received professional training, whereas the rate in Japan was 43.9 percent and 40.4 percent in the Republic of Korea, according to general office statistics.

Gender imbalance at birth remains high with 112.3 boys born for every 100 girls last year.

In addition, services to improve the population's quality of life including pre-marriage health checks, pre-birth diagnoses and new-born screening, plus social security for the elderly were still limited, especially in remote mountainous provinces, said Trong.

Another problem is the increasing number of people leaving the country. By 1999, around 4.5 million people had emigrated – equal to around 6.5 percent of the total population - and by 2009, the number had reached 6.5 million people, equal to 7.5 percent.

In HCM City , the number of emigrants was equal to 30 percent of the city's population, whereas the rate in Hanoi and Da Nang was 10 and 6.4 percent respectively.

To overcome the challenges, Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Viet Tien proposed giving priority to remote and mountainous areas in supplying reproductive healthcare and family planning services.

Information dissemination should also be improved to narrow the birth rate gap in different provinces and cities, he said.

Relevant bodies should set up measures to lengthen and take advantage of the golden population period, as well as to hasten updates to the Law on Population.

"The law will form an important base for solving new challenges appearing on the horizon," said Tien.

Speaking about the population's future duties, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan said workers should learn from the experience of Japan and the Republic of Korea , who had both suffered workforce shortages.

"If population policies are not suitable and timely, it will be difficult to change the situation, so the sector must find ways to maintain a sustainable workforce scale," he said.

In Vietnamese tradition, offspring take care of their parents when grow old, thus the population sector should join hands with the education sector in giving children training so that they have good awareness of the social security needs of the elderly, he said.

The population sector should also coordinate with labour and health sectors to lengthen the golden population period until at least 2061 and take full advantage of it, he said.

"For every population policy, encouraging each family to have two children is the best policy for ensuring a stable population," said Nhan.-VNA