Here is an interesting article about the Philippines by Rosa Linda Valenzona. Linda is currently General Manager of the Ayala Multi-purpose Cooperative in Manila. She is a former lecturer in economics at the University of the Philippines and a former Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs, Department of Social Welfare and Development. She is also a consultant to Pontifical Council on the Family.
She affirms that the Philippines is experiencing a poverty crisis right now due to three serious handicaps to the Philippine Economy: (1) the heavy burden of foreign debt servicing we faced in the late 1980’s after the Marcos regime; (2) the graft and corruption of our politicians; and (3) gross economic mismanagement. However, she explains that there is more to the Philippines than just its apparent ‘poverty’. Here is the full article:
By insisting on its own demographic path the Philippines has an economic strength that much of the world now lacks.
Ask the average informed first world citizen what he or she knows about the Philippines and they are likely to tell you that it is a poor, overpopulated, Catholic country, and that the “Catholic” part explains all the rest. A recent article in the Washington Post is typical of the media coverage that feeds this view: “Birthrates Help Keep Filipinos in Poverty,” ran the heading. “Contraceptives, Rejected by Government, Are Unaffordable for Many in Majority-Catholic Nation,” the subheading explained. Enough said.
The Post’s pitch faithfully reflects the view of the global family planning industry, which has long viewed the Philippines as “that Asian upstart” for resisting a national population control program. In the past thirty years official aid agencies and non-government groups led by International Planned Parenthood have poured resources into influencing the Philippines government to enact such a program.
Whence comes this resistance? How has it benefited the Philippines?
As much of the world confronts a demographic meltdown caused by very low birth rates and ageing populations, the Philippines is in a strong demographic position to build its own social and economic wellbeing – and contribute to the workforce of the developed world.
Certainly the majority Catholic culture explains a lot. Even when other parts of the Catholic world fell in with the birth control mentality, the Philippine clergy were stalwart in their defence of the principles set out in Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae 40 years ago. Asian family values have also played their part.
Now, media messages to the contrary, they stand vindicated. As much of the world confronts a demographic meltdown caused by very low birth rates and ageing populations, the Philippines is in a strong demographic position to build its own social and economic wellbeing — as well as continue contributing to the workforce of the developed world. That is my ultimate argument in this article. But first, let us look at the facts of our country’s population.
According to the 2007 official estimate the population of the Philippines stands at 91 million – a tremendous leap from the 1.5 million souls estimated to be living in these islands by Fr Manuel Buzeta in 1799. For almost another century-and-a-half it continued to grow slowly, but then surged, sharing in the worldwide postwar baby boom.
At the same time it showed the effects of lower death rates owing to better nutrition, improved housing, sanitary conditions and more hygienic practices. Between 1950 and1965 the population annual growth rate was higher than 3 per cent, but by 1970 growth had levelled off. It then steadily declined to the present level of 1.76 per cent.
It is important to realise that population growth came from survival as well as births. Improved health care and nutrition helped all age groups live longer, but they had their most dramatic effect on child survival. Between 1950 and 1960 alone infant mortality fell by almost 30 per cent.
The massive fall in child mortality caused population growth to gain momentum. More children surviving to adulthood created unprecedented numbers in the female population aged 15 to 49 between 1970 and 1980. Of course, this phenomenon of growth momentum is not confined to the Philippines. Generally, population “explodes” not because people are “breeding like rabbits” — as so many think — but because more children survive and increase the ranks of the fertile population. This is obvious when you remember that the Philippine birth rate was actually declining during this period.
What makes the Philippines a singular case is that its birth rate did not dive down as in other Asian countries, such as Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong. Declines in individual fertility in those countries were sharp enough to neutralize the continued increase in their fertile population.
Demographers have coined the term “demographic dividend” to refer to the material benefits countries gain from a labour force unburdened by child support. Contending that this is what helped to launch development in these countries, the family planning industry has continually harped on the Philippines’ failure to bring down its fertility as the cause of underdevelopment and poverty.
There are actually several factors behind this slower decline in Philippine fertility. A low level of contraceptive use is one of them. Among women aged 15 to 49, around a third in the Philippines used modern methods of birth control in 2002, compared with 62 per cent in Singapore, 72 per cent in Thailand and 86 per cent in Hong Kong. Sadly, in these latter countries contraception has become a lifestyle choice. Around 14 per cent of Filipinas used traditional methods, including natural family planning, and just over half used no method. Many of those who desist from using contraceptives do so because they would like have children.
Yet fertility in this country has declined, and if contraception is not the cause, what is? Fertility behaviour is a complex of biology, economics, cultural values, attitudes and opportunities. The data is difficult to collect and analyze. In order to make sense of the little data available a stylised model will serve to illustrate the multiple factors that contribute to the fall in fertility.
Consider the following life story of a hypothetical Filipina:
• Assume that birth spacing lasts two years after each pregnancy. Each pregnancy will require 33 months (9 + 24 = 33) to complete before the mother is ready for another baby.
• Since the woman’s fertile period lasts 15 to 45 year (30 years or 360 months) this gives a theoretical maximum of 10 pregnancies over the entire reproductive period.
• She then sets aside 6 years to study (4 year college course and roughly 2 years to prepare for a qualifying board exam etc.)
• Then she works for 10 years before she gets married.
• Upon marriage the couple decides to delay pregnancy for another 2 years
• Then her husband works abroad for 5 years.
If all these factors are realised a woman will forego 82 per cent of her (theoretical maximum) fertility and end up having less than two pregnancies.