Philippine population

Fewer babies: Philippine births at 34-year low in 2020

Rappler
Fewer babies: Philippine births at 34-year low in 2020
The government links the decline to fewer marriages, women delaying pregnancies during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the increase in women's usage of modern family planning methods

The Philippines saw fewer babies born in 2020, with the total number dropping to its lowest in over three decades, said the Commission on Population and Development (Popcom).

In a statement on Sunday, October 10, Popcom said there were only 1,516,042 registered births in the country in 2020, based on a preliminary report by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) released in June 2021.

This is the lowest number in 34 years or since 1986, when only 1,493,995 Filipinos were born.

Births in 2020 were likewise lower compared to 2019, by around 157,881 or 9.43%. There were 1.675 million births in 2019.

Popcom also said there were fewer marriages in 2020 – the lowest in the last two decades – with only 240,183 weddings logged, 44% lower versus the 431,972 in 2019.

Popcom Executive Director and Undersecretary for Population and Development Juan Antonio Perez III linked the decline to the combined impacts of fewer marriages, women delaying pregnancies during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the increase in women’s usage of modern family planning methods to prevent unplanned pregnancies.

“What we feared at the onset of the pandemic did not happen…. From the PSA numbers, it is clear Filipino women are deciding to delay having children, and families are deferring, or avoiding, to have more kids, as they were made well-aware of the possible hardships and inconveniences in securing medical, as well as family planning services, since the pandemic has severely impeded healthcare systems,” Perez said.

He also noted that the country’s fertility rate stands at 2.5 births per woman, from a high of 6 in the 1960s. Despite this, Perez believes that after the pandemic, the situation will normalize, and the fertility rate and number of marriages will rebound, similar to what happened after World War II.

“Filipinos will eventually learn to live with COVID-19. As such, we may see increased births after the era of COVID, with family planning helping couples avoid unplanned pregnancies, unlike in the late 1940s and 1950s when there was no family planning program,” Perez said.

He noted that in a Social Weather Stations survey in November 2020, unplanned pregnancies were among the major concerns of Filipino women during the pandemic.

As for the fewer marriages, Perez said that for Filipinos in general, being in a relationship has become more “informal.”

Due to this, he said Popcom’s services will be geared more toward young people who are now living together and are having difficulty accessing family planning services, in line with its recent mandate to address the root causes of teen pregnancy.

Perez then projected that the slowdown in marriages, pregnancies, and childbirths will likely continue in 2021.

“The number of those who gave birth between January and March 2021 were at 268,000, compared with the normal trend of 350,000. If that continues, we can see an even smaller addition to the population by year-end,” he said.

Perez pointed out that there may have been delays in the registration of births, due to difficulties in reporting them in the middle of the pandemic. – Rappler.com