Family planning makes good business sense

Ana P. Santos
Benefits from awareness and knowledge about family planning increased the profitability of firms, labor productivity, and better quality of life of workers and families

MANILA, Philippines  Family planning makes good business sense, both for employees and employers.

At the Family Welfare and Business Productivity Summit on Thursday, November 15, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), Employment Confederation of the Philippines (Ecop), Makati Business Club (MBC), Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) and Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), along with other business groups and development agencies, shared their experiences in the implementation of family programs in the workplace.

University of the Philippines economics professor Benjamin Diokno presented the case of 5 textile companies who implemented a Family Planning and Maternal and Child Health Program in the workplace for one year.

These companies employed mostly women whose contraceptive use was between 31-56%. The women were likely to get pregnant and experience lost days in work due to illness or childcare. 

Work place initiatives under this program included information dissemination, counseling and the subsidized cost of contraceptives, which included the gamut of family methods: hormonal pills, condoms, injectables, and standard days method beads. Taking the most expensive scenario, costs for running such a program amounted to more than P100,000.

Post-program analysis showed awareness and knowledge about family planning and its economic and health benefits boosted contraceptive use, which increased to as high as 60%. Savings in medical insurance, hiring of temporary replacement employees also amounted to as much as P20 million.

“Benefits included increased profitability of the firm since benefits exceed costs, improved labor productivity and better quality of life of workers and their families,” said Diokno.

Family planning for national development

According to Diokno, improved business productivity is just one aspect of family planning; there is also an aspect of national growth and development.

Comparing the Philippines to its ASEAN neighbors, Diokno said, “We started with the same population as Thailand, some 4 decades ago, now we are 30 million more. Thailand has become more successful.”

“If I had to prepare a budget for 30 million less Filipinos, I would probably have a budget surplus instead of a deficit,” said Diokno who served as budget secretary during the Estrada administration.

“With less people to budget for, money can go into public infrastructure which is badly needed for national growth,” Diokno added.

“We are not simply talking about employer-employee relationships here. Family planning is key to nation-building,” said Donald Dee, vice president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce.

Dee who has long been advocating access to all forms of contraceptives said that he was once condemned to hell by one bishop, who he refused to name.

“I simply said that for those who are poor and cannot control the size of their families, this life is already hell on earth.”

FP works at work: Case studies

Some big businesses have taken it upon themselves to implement similar family planning initiatives in their workplace.

Dr Riza Relova, company physician at Ford Motor Company Philippines, provided family planning supplies through their onsite pharmacy, and also reimbursed or made salary deductions for pharmacy purchases, maternal and child vaccines. Ford Philippines, employs close to 600 employees, mostly men.

Central Azcucera in Batangas, trained employees to be volunteers called “kaugnay.” These volunteers provide family planning counseling and information dissemination to both male and female employees. 

Both companies reported less medical costs for both the company and the employee, less absences due to sickness, improved health and satisfaction of employees, as well as improved attendance and productivity.

Partnerships

But not all companies have the capacity to provide or subsidize such programs for their employees.

This was the concern raised by Ramon Certeza, director for education of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP). “The big companies comprise only 2% of businesses. 98% of businesses are small-medium enterprises (SMEs) who may not be able to afford family planning initiatives.”

Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Ted Herbosa explained that under the Administrative Framework of Public-Private Partnerships in Health, the government now has the avenue to share costs [with the private sector].

“Before bawal yun. You cannot use government money to fund a private sector initiative. But under this framework, we can share costs of a shared goal such as the delivery of family planning services, which will all go to the bigger goal of reducing maternal mortality and improving the lives of mothers and their children,” said Herbosa.

Emphasizing the need for collaboration between the public and private sector, Herbosa said, “We were able to eradicate polio and malaria through partnerships with the private sector. There is no reason why we cannot do that for reproductive health.”

The business groups gathered at the summit signed a manifesto to signify their commitment to invest in the implementation of Family Planning programs within their organizations and to initiate family planning programs for the poor as part of their corporate social responsibility programs. 

The business groups present also expressed their support for the passage of the RH Bill. – Rappler.com