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More Filipinos of working age

/ 05:06 AM January 08, 2019

The latest population figures released by the Commission on Population (Popcom), using data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), show that childbirth among Filipinos in 2017 declined by 1.8 percent compared to 2016.

Of more significance in the report is the decrease in adolescent births from 201,182 in 2016 to 196,478 in 2017, or 4,704 less babies born to teen-aged parents.

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Whether or not the drop in childbirths is partly attributable to the Reproductive Health Law that the Catholic Church and its rabid followers have stubbornly resisted since its enactment in 2012 is a big question mark.

In the same report, Popcom made the projection that, by Dec. 31, 2019, there would be 108.88 million Filipinos. The increase in population would result in an 8.2-percent rise in the number of senior citizens (or those 60 years and above) from around 7.5 percent in 2015.

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The population growth also means that some 1.4 million Filipinos of working age, i.e., 15 to 65 years, will be added to the country’s workforce. This would increase the number of employable Filipinos to 70 million by the end of the year.

Barring any significant drop in fertility rate, the country’s population is expected to continue to grow yearly at the present pace. Given this situation, by the PSA’s reckoning, there would be 142 million Filipinos in 2045.

Today, with approximately 107 million Filipinos, the Philippines is the 13th most populous country in the world.

By any measure, a spike in childbirth puts additional pressure on the government’s capacity to provide basic facilities and services, e.g. food, schools, and healthcare, to its citizens.

The work is cut out for the national leadership to continuously improve the government’s revenue raising capabilities and maximize their use for the benefit of the majority of Filipinos.

The projected 70 million Filipino workforce by year’s end may be viewed, depending on the government’s economic policies and the private sector’s strategic business plans, as either an opportunity or a threat.

In a country with sound economic programs, that huge manpower resource can be used to achieve higher production output, improved business services and more meaningful economic activities.

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Studies have shown that the ages between 25 to 40 years are the most productive periods in a person’s life. Generally healthy during those years, he or she is able to work efficiently, earn respectable wages and contribute to the national economy.

In addition, the taxes paid by employees in this age group help fund the government’s assistance programs for the less privileged members of our society, senior citizens and persons with disabilities.

The presence of millions of Filipinos who are willing and able to work becomes a “threat” when there are not enough jobs available that can efficiently make use of their academic training and skills, and be properly compensated.

Or if there are work vacancies, the job applicants are overqualified (which results in underemployment if they accept them) or the offered wages leave much to be desired.

Under these circumstances, many are obliged to seek work elsewhere in the world and, in the process, result in dysfunctional families.

Besides being an economic problem, a huge army of unemployed and underemployed Filipinos has serious social implications. Although at present, street demonstrations over economic issues have largely been confined to the D and E members of our society, this should not lull the government into thinking discontent over jobs and wages would not spread to the ranks of the more educated but jobless Filipinos.

Recall that last year’s “yellow vest” movement in France started as a protest by residents of a rural area against the imposition of a fuel tax. Their cause later drew the support of other sectors similarly disadvantaged by France’s economic problems.

There is a limit to the patience of Filipinos who studied hard expecting that meaningful jobs await them after graduation, only to be confronted with poor or inadequate livelihood conditions. This may turn out to be a social volcano.

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