Favorable population slowdown
The COVID-19 pandemic made possible in 2020 what the RH Law (or Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012) had been trying to accomplish for years with little success.
The Commission on Population and Development Control (Popcom) reported recently that, based on preliminary data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the number of Filipino births registered last year dropped by 9.43 percent.
From 1,673,923 Filipinos born in 2019, the births went down to 1,516,042, the lowest since 1986 when 1,492,995 Filipinos were born.
Last year also had the lowest number of marriages in 20 years, with only 240,183 couples getting hitched, which represents a 44-percent decline from 431,972 weddings in 2019.
Note, however, that this statistic covers only marriages reported to the local civil registries; it does not include couples who, for financial or personal reasons, choose to live-in or cohabit without the benefit of marriage, a practice that has found favor with a lot of millennials.
The Popcom attributed the reduced births to Filipino women resorting to modern family planning methods and their decision to postpone pregnancies while the pandemic was at its height.
It is apparent that despite the vigorous campaign by groups opposed to the RH Law, with the Catholic Church at its forefront, many Filipino women have availed of the law’s family planning systems.
Obviously, practical economic considerations trumped over religious teaching that children are God’s blessings and therefore should be allowed to be born regardless of their parent’s capacity (or incapacity) to provide them with the basic necessities of life.
Although the pandemic seems to be abating, the number of births may not increase, and may even dip further, in light of the economic difficulties the country is going through at present.
According to the PSA, as of August, 3.88 million Filipinos were unemployed. And based on the forecast of the National Economic Development Authority, it would take at least 10 years before the Philippine economy could return to prepandemic level.
Thus, the light at the end of the economic tunnel may not be seen any time soon in spite of the rosy pronouncements of the government’s economic managers. The latter have found some commonality with Dr. Bernardo Villegas, the reputed “prophet of boom” of the Philippines.
Under those circumstances, it is doubtful if rational Filipino couples (unless they are well-connected as the people behind Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.) would seriously consider increasing their brood during these times.
As of latest count, the country’s population stands at approximately 110 million. If the existing fertility rate of Filipino women does not abate, that number is forecasted by the World Population Review to increase to 125 million by 2030, which is just nine years away.
There is a bright spot, though, in the population figures. According to Popcom, there has been a notable increase in working-age Filipinos or those who are between the ages of 15 and 64.
Considered the most productive period in the life of Filipinos, that age group is expected to reach 71.2 million this year or 64.15 percent of today’s Philippine population.
That’s a huge reservoir of able-bodied Filipinos whose skills and services are waiting to be harnessed to increase national productivity and lift the country out of its present economic quagmire.
But considering the widespread business disruption spawned by COVID-19, that potential for growth would have to wait and remain unutilized in the coming years.
For now, let’s look at the drop in births and marriages as an opportunity for the government to lower budgetary allocation for infant screening tests, child care centers, kindergarten classes and other child development projects, and that those “savings” would be applied to programs that would redound to the best interests of the majority of Filipinos.
That’s cold comfort, but it’s worth relishing during these challenging times. INQFor comments, please send your email to [email protected]
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