2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census - Policy Brief on Children and Youth
Being important to today’s development of society as well as being the hope and future of a country, children and youth deserve a good start in life through better health provision, a nurturing home environment, educational opportunities, and eliminating barriers so that they could properly transition to adulthood in ways that will contribute to the economic and social development of the country.
The 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census enumerated 14.4 million children aged 0 to 14 years (29 per cent of the total population) and 9 million youth aged 15 to 24 years (18 per cent of the total population). The total population of children and youth combined was recorded at 23.4 million persons or 46.5 per cent of the total 50.3 million people enumerated in the 2014 Census.
These numbers have grown steadily between the 1973 and 2014 censuses, while the overall rate of growth has slowed down as a result of a decline in fertility. If fertility decline and improvement in child mortality will continue, the total population will increase to 61 million in 2034 and 64 million in 2044, with a little increase in the number of children and youth to 24.5 million in 2034, and expected to level out in 2044 to 23.1 million. In this demographic transition, the number of older population will triple in 2044 from the level in 2014 (2.9 million in 2014 to 8.6 million in 2044).
(1) The 2014 Census shows that between a quarter and a half of children and youth live in a household that needs the basic requirements for good health and prosperity.
41 per cent of rural children and 15 per cent of urban children need access to safe source of drinking water.
38 per cent of rural children and 10 per cent of urban children live in a household that requires access to improved sanitation.
94 per cent of rural children aged 0-4 live in a household using solid fuels or kerosene for cooking. The use of these fuels put children at risk of respiratory diseases, poisoning and fire.
45.6 per cent of children and 38.5 per cent of youth in need of housing that entails less frequent maintenance. Some 9.5 million children and youth are living in poor quality housing units such as huts, houses made of bamboo, and other types of housing units which are constructed from poor quality materials or impermanent structures. Ample protection, especially for the children, living in these types of dwelling requires serious consideration.
The report calls for improving the health infrastructure especially in rural areas to reduce the risk of diseases. This includes increasing access to improved drinking water and sanitation, as well as more provision of electricity, transport, communication facilities, roads, and affordable and accessible primary health care services in the most disadvantaged communities.
(2) Five million children and youth (23 per cent) belonged in the poorest segment of the population as measured by the wealth index quintile. To address this requires an increase in employment opportunities, sustained agricultural productivity, and encouragement of female labour force participation. Workplaces and communities need to reduce the cultural barriers to women staying in the labour force after marriage and childbirth. Increasing the labour force participation of women will lead to a higher economic growth.
(3) Eight per cent of 10-13 year olds are in the labour force as reported in the 2014 Census. More than half of working children are in ‘vulnerable’ work, despite the 1993 Child Law, which stipulates that children under the age of 12 should not work and those between the ages of 12 to 14 should only take on light work which will not interfere with their education, health or development. Likewise, there is a need for further mechanisms to discourage children (and their families) from entering the labour force at a very young age.
(4) School attendance is nearly universal for children aged under 12 but declines steadily and sharply thereafter. Half a million youth are illiterate. Children who have no education go to work at an early age but, as they grow older, they are more likely to become unemployed or in low paying jobs. There is a need to invest in meaningful and accessible education. Barriers to school attendance such as the cost of school fees, textbooks, uniforms, transport, food and lodging and the insufficient numbers (and quality) of lower and upper secondary schools in some areas need to be addressed. Educating children and their families on the importance of completing education is also important.
(5) At 62 infant deaths per 1,000 live births (IMR) and 72 deaths of children under five years of age per 1,000 live births (U5MR), Myanmar recorded the highest among ASEAN Countries. Rural areas and Ayeyawady and Magway Regions, and Chin State registered the highest among the States/Regions. Improvement of health facilities, making them affordable and accessible especially in those priority areas would make a significant progress in the reduction of the over-all children mortality rates.
(6) Some 307,000 children and youth (1.4 per cent) reported to have a disability in at least one domain: seeing, hearing, walking, remembering/ concentrating. The prevalence is higher in rural areas (1.5 per cent against 1.0 per cent) and in some States/Regions in the country (Ayeyawady, Chin, Kayin, and Tanintharyi). Females are less likely to be reported as experiencing disabilities across most domains.
A strong public health system needs to be made accessible to all especially in those marginalized and remote areas in the country. Likewise, mothers has to be provided with health education which is important in achieving a healthy family.
(7) Girls start to marry at the age of 17, and by age 23 half are married. Boys marry later; it is only by age 25 that half of males are married. Six per cent of girls aged 15-17 are married. Girls in early marriage are more exposed to risks related to pregnancy and childbirths. Adolescent fertility rate was recorded at 33 births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19. Improving access to education for young women especially in the rural areas would encourage them to delay marriage and thus childbirths. Providing young women with the right information and access on sexual and reproductive health services would ensure safety during pregnancy, delivery, and care of infants as well as for the young couples to meet their needs for family planning.