According to data released by the Philippines Statistics Authority last week, in 2021 there was a 10.7% decrease in live births compared to 2020. And compared to 2012, 2021 saw a 23.8% decline in registered births. If this decline coupled with the increase in deaths continues, the Philippines will have a negative population growth rate by 2028. Is the Philippines the canary in the coal mine?
As noted by the Philippines Statistics Authority population pyramid, the largest portion of the population are within reproductive age with more than half of the female population of reproductive age. We would not expect, therefore, the Philippines to have such a rapid decrease in the birth rate. So, Super Sally looked at the data and explored the possible reasons for the 2021 decline in birth rates.
The data comes with a caveat. It takes four months to complete the registration of births and as the data is up to date as of 31 March 2022, the decrease of 10.7% may reduce in the next release of data.
All regions of the Philippines, except for BARMM, saw a decrease in registered live births during 2021 compared to 2020. The decrease in births ranged from 4.2% in Region IX to 19.1% in NCR. BARMM, the exception, saw an increase of 6.6%.
Effect of Covid Measures and Family Planning
As births occur 9 or 10 months after conception, events of the previous year will have an impact on the number of births. During 2020, the number of marriages that took place was the lowest in the past 50 years, Super Sally wrote. This could have resulted from covid measures such as shutdowns and stay-at-home orders. Fewer marriages would result in fewer births the following year. However, as Super Sally noted, more than half (57.1%) of the babies were born to unmarried mothers. “Marriage or lack thereof hasn’t affected procreation.”
Another contributing factor to a decline in births could be the aggressive family planning that has been implemented in the Philippines since 2017 as part of the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022. The PDP is anchored on AmBisyon Natin 2040, a 25-year plan that envisions a prosperous, high-trust, and middle-class Philippine society, where the people are healthy and educated, among other goals. The plan also contains strategies and policies aimed at achieving the United Nations (“UN”) Agenda 2030’s Sustainable Development Goals (“SDGs”).
Earlier this month the close link between the PDP and SDGs was confirmed by National Economic and Development Authority Undersecretary Joseph J. Capuno who said that at their core, the SDGs and PDPs are bound by shared ambitions. “Most if not all PDP chapters cohere with the SDGs,” he said.
The Philippines government has identified family planning as a pivotal intervention in achieving these goals.