A demographic snapshot of the Philippines: one step forward, half a step back


A UNFPA employee walks to a damaged health center in General Santos on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. Credit: UNFPA Philippines
  • Opinion by Barry Mirkin (davao city, philippines)
  • Inter Press Service

According to the biennial global population estimates and projections released by the United Nations Population Division in 2022, the population of the Philippines had risen to 114 million by mid-2021.

A global milestone will be reached in November 2022, when the world population is expected to exceed 8 billion. Population projections predict that world population growth will be concentrated in eight countries by 2050, including the Philippines.

The country’s overall fertility rate continues to decline gradually, falling to 2.5 births per woman in 2021. Some startling statistics for the Philippines show that from the years 2004 to 2020, 36 out of 1,000 Filipino girls between the ages of 15 and 19 had already given birth.

Moreover, during that period, half of all births were unintended. By comparison, in Southeast Asia, which includes the Philippines, world fertility is estimated at 2.3 births per woman and 1.5 births per woman.

Abortion remains illegal in the Philippines, despite the estimated over a million illegal and unsafe procedures performed each year. Anyone who undergoes or performs an abortion faces up to six years in prison. It is the only country in the world, other than the Vatican, where abortion under any ground remains illegal.

While the Philippines is a global outlier in its stance on abortion, it should be noted that in 2022 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States, sparking a storm of protests. .

As a result, a number of state governments are trying to severely restrict access to abortion.

In one of the few recent legislative successes related to population, in 2021 the Philippine parliament raised the legal age for sexual consent from 12 years, the lowest in Asia to 16 years. Nevertheless, the law includes a “Romeo and Juliet exemption” to protect younger loved ones.

Other parliamentary developments have not proved successful. For example, in a country with conservative values ​​and a powerful church, divorce is still illegal, except for the Muslim minority (eight percent of the total population), despite several attempts over the years to legalize divorce.

Annulment, an option for divorce can take up to four years, may only be granted on narrow legal grounds and at high financial costs. A bill was recently introduced in parliament to give gay couples some legal protection in a country that bans same-sex couples from marrying. However, the bill has met fierce parliamentary opposition.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there was a record number of repatriated overseas Filipinos (OFWs), some 792,000 in 2020, due to COVID-related lockdowns and restrictions.

Under this program, administered by the Philippine government, Filipinos abroad work on fixed-term contracts, usually in the oil-exporting countries of the Arab region and generally for a period of one to two years, but with the possibility of extension.

On a positive note, the Philippine diaspora, i.e. those living and working abroad, is estimated to have transferred between $10 and 12 million dollars to the Philippines in 2021, an increase of 5 percent from the previous year.

The Philippines benefited directly from job creation and wage increases in the United States, which accounted for nearly 40 percent of remittance receipts. Other major remittance sources were Singapore, Saudi Arabia and Japan.

The top four recipients of global remittances are India, Mexico, China and the Philippines. The United States was the leading source of global remittances, worth $75 billion in 2021.

Despite the ravages of the global COVID pandemic, remittances have proven to be highly resilient and a major contributor to Philippine economic growth. According to World Bank forecasts, despite the devastation and uncertainty of the crisis in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic, remittances to low- and middle-income countries are expected to grow by four percent in 2022.

Always a source of nurses for other countries, the significant exodus of nurses from the Philippines amid the coronavirus pandemic has increased as 25 percent more Filipino nurses migrated to the United States in the first nine months of 2021 than in the United States. the same period in 2020.

Based on the recent surge in COVID cases in the United States, as well as in other parts of the world, the departure of Filipino nurses is likely to continue and grow.

Given the country’s current demographic trends and future population projections, coupled with the various failed legislative initiatives, the Philippines is unlikely to experience major demographic changes, at least not in the short term.

In other words, same old, same old.

Barry Mirkin is the former head of the Population Policy Division of the United Nations Population Division.

IPS UN Office

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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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