MANILA – The Commission on Population and Development (PopCom) projected an increased birth rate when the Covid-19 pandemic started as more families stayed home and access to family planning methods is limited.
Instead, there was a significant drop in the number of births in 2020, with just 1,516,042 million registered -- the lowest since 1986, which recorded 1,493,995 births.
Based on a preliminary report of the Philippine Statistics Authority as of June 2021, the total is also lower than 2019’s 1.675 million.
The country likewisse saw the lowest number of marriages in the last 20 years in 2020, as 240,183 couples wed last year, or 44 percent fewer than the 431,972 who tied the knot in 2019.
Undersecretary for Population and Development Juan Antonio Perez III attributed the birthrate decline to the combined impacts of fewer marriages, women delaying pregnancies during the pandemic, and the increase in women using modern family planning methods.
“What we feared at the onset of the pandemic did not happen,” Perez said in a news release on Sunday. “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 health care systems.”
Despite travel restrictions and limited local health care capacities, Perez is also pleased with the outcome of family planning services in 2020, with the addition of 400,000 users nationwide, bringing the total to more than 8 million protected Filipino men, women and couples.
Concerted efforts by the national government in support of local government family planning services, allied agencies, as well as stakeholders from the public and private sectors, raised the level of Filipinos’ awareness and interest on the potential risks of conceiving and giving birth during the health crisis.
PopCom has also sought to expand community-based family planning services through its National Program on Population and Family Planning, which began in 2019.
Perez noted the Social Weather Stations’ November 2020 survey, which disclosed that unintended or unplanned pregnancies were among major concerns of a majority of Filipino women during the pandemic’s progression.
They were also anxious about Covid-19’s effects on their well-being as well as their families, their unborn children, and the country’s overall condition, according to the study
The slowing trend of marriages, pregnancies, and childbirths will likely continue this year, Perez said.
“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.
He also said there may be instances of delays in the registry of births, more so in the provinces, as midwives may have met difficulties in reporting them due to the pandemic.
The country’s fertility rate is currently at 2.5 births per woman, from a high of 6 in the 1960s.
Perez sees the situation normalizing post-pandemic when fertility and the steadily dipping number of marriages will see a possible rebound, similar to what occurred 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,” he said.
As for the dip in marriages, Perez opined that Filipinos may have become more “informal” in their relationships.
In 2003, 593,553 couples tied the knot.
“As such, PopCom will devote a significant amount of its energies on young people who are now living together, and are having difficulty in acquiring family planning services, under its recent mandate to address the root causes of teen pregnancy,” he said.
Perez said family planning is just as vital in a health crisis, as it is a means to cope after the pandemic.
“Alleviating poverty and the ability to plan one’s life should go together,” Perez said. (PR)