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Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Poor Have Bigger Families: A Matter of Choice or Circumstance

by Dr. Romulo A. Virola 1
Secretary General, NSCB

Many of us have friends who yearn to have apos. But not everyone is blessed with those little rascals and cutie pies to pamper. Some rich couples have waited so long, despite many trips to fertility specialists here and abroad. On the other hand, when one goes to slum areas in Metro Manila, one sees hordes of happy children playfully chasing each other, completely oblivious to the impoverished environment that encumbers their young minds.

As the powerful Catholic Church opposes nontraditional methods of contraception, population management in the Philippines has certainly been a big challenge. Available data from the 1990, 1995 and 2000 censuses show that the Philippine population grew annually by 2.32% between 1990 and 1995, 2.36 % between 1995 and 2000 and 2.34% between 1990 and 2000.Based on the 2000 Census, population projections2 put our growth rate at 1.97% between 2006 and 2007 and at 1.95% between 2007 and 2008, with the midyear 2008 population projected at 90,457,200 equivalent to a population density of 266 per square kilometer and an average population size of 2,154 per barangay. The decreasing population growth rate is due to the fact that the 2003 National Demographic and Health Survey in the Philippines shows a steady decline in fertility over the last three decades, from 6 children per woman in 1970 to 3.5 children per woman in 2001.3

Relatedly, statistics from various sources (Table 1) show that the population growth rate of the Philippines is above the ASEAN average of 1.5% and is higher than Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam but lower than the 6 other ASEAN countries, including Singapore which is now promoting childbirth among couples. Notwithstanding decreases in fertility in the past, the Total Fertility Rate for the Philippines continues to be the highest among the five original ASEAN members. Our 2005 population density of 282 per sq. kilometer is topped only by the 6336 of Singapore. On the other hand, the Philippines has the lowest GDP per capita in US Dollars4 among the 5 original ASEAN countries and some attribute our economic underdevelopment to overpopulation.

The relationship between poverty and population growth has of course been probed by many researchers. In this connection, we wrote a paper entitled “Population and Poverty Nexus: Does Family Size Matter?”5 for the 10th National Convention on Statistics held on 1-2 October last year. Using data from the Family Income and Expenditures Surveys of the National Statistics Office, the paper dwelt on the differentials in the socio-economic situation of Filipino families by family size.

Here are some findings:

Per capita income, per capita expenditure and per capita savings decrease as family size increases. Thus, the bigger the family, the less money there is available to buy basic needs. This is true for the Philippines in general as well as separately for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Table 2 shows that average sized-households of 4-6 members enjoy nearly close to 1 ½ times as much per capita income and expenditure as households with more than ten members.

In the last ten years, as family size increases, poverty worsens. Poverty measures like poverty incidence, poverty gap, severity of poverty, mean vulnerability and vulnerability incidence all increase with family size (Tables 3.1 and 3.2). For example, in 2003 the poverty incidence among families with at least 7 members is higher than 40%, compared to less than 20% among families with size no more than 4.

Between 1997 and 20006, the reduction in poverty from 28.1% to 27.5% came mainly from the smaller families. But between 2000 and 2003 when poverty incidence went down further to 24.4%, there was poverty reduction even among the larger families. This could mean that the first to benefit from poverty reduction are the smaller families.

On the average, poor families are larger than non-poor families by more than one member ( 5.87 versus 4.34 in 2003). Specifically, 21 out of every 100 poor families had at least 7 members in 2003 compared to only 6 among the nonpoor. (Table 4)

Members of large families are less likely to reach college (Figure 1). Indeed, this should be cause for concern for government and civil society – less access to education among larger and poorer families gives them very little options and makes it viciously difficult for them to escape from poverty ever!

Per capita expenditures on education, medical needs and even recreation generally go down with increases in family size. ( Figures 2.1 to 2.3).

There is hope for the future, though. Consistent with declining population growth rates, FIES data show that the population of larger families is on the downtrend. Between 2000 and 2003 the number of families with sizes 1 to 3 and 4 to 6 increased annually by 10% and 3.5%, respectively while that of families with sizes 7 to 10 and more than 10 decreased by 2.7% and 5.5%, respectively.(Table 2)

In addition, data from the 2003 National Demographic and Health Survey conducted by the National Statistics Office show that the mean ideal number of children is largest for women belonging to the lowest economic status, ranging from 3.5 for the lowest quintile7 to 2.7 for the highest quintile. (Table 5). Not surprisingly, the mean ideal number of children is also largest for women with the least education: from 4.6 for women with no education to 2.8 for women with at least college education. It is worth noting too that the mean ideal number of children is smallest for women in the NCR (2.6), Central Luzon (2.8) and CALABARZON (2.8); it is largest for women from ARMM (4.7), CAR (3.4), MIMAROPA (3.2) and Eastern Visayas (3.2). And of course, NCR, Central Luzon and CALABARZON are the regions with the three lowest poverty incidence while ARMM and MIMAROPA have the 2nd and 5th highest poverty incidence in 20038.

Despite the advocacy efforts of the Commission on Population, the Philippine population will be increasing at the rate of 200 per hour in the Year of the Rat. Surely, there is improvement in our population management but obviously, there are other factors that come into play when couples decide on childbearing. And so why do the poor have bigger families? Some possibilities: (1) The poor have no access to modern family planning methods. Should this be difficult for PopCom to address? (2) The poor need more children to do household chores or to help in economic activities of the family. Shouldn’t children be studying in school instead? (3)The poor are religiously guided by the Catholic Church. Does it mean that the rich do not really pray when they go to church? Susmaryosep! (4) The poor lead healthier lives. Try malunggay and ampalaya then. Also, drink plenty of water and leisurely take a healthy breakfast at home - not in the office nor in a fast food center! (5) The poor lead less stressful lives (read: the poor enjoy sex better). Workaholic couples probably find less quality time to enjoy themselves and so find it difficult to conceive. With a nagger of a biyenan to boot, how can the poor rich couples’ copulation techniques succeed? But recalling that nonrandomly selected women enjoy sex better than men9, maybe, just maybe, poor men do it better than rich men? (6) The poor are less able to resist the pangangalabit ni waswit or pag-aklay ni maybahay. Because even the poorest women desire fewer children than they actually have! Or are the innocently seductive poses of the poor far more effective than branded perfume, sculpted noses and tattooed eyebrows? (7) In vitro fertilization is subprime compared to dancing in Obando. Note that we seldom see rich childless couples hying off to Bulacan. Pride prevails, maybe? The poor - they simply swing it all out when Willie wheedles, Sayaw Darling, Sayaw Darling!

Unfortunately, there are no official statistics to indicate definitively the reason why the poor are more successful in going forth to multiply! Whether they are forced by circumstances or whether theirs is an informed choice.

But come to think of it, is overpopulation really bad when China and India10 are the envy of everybody these days? Is it not in fact partly because of their huge population of conspicuous consumers that investments are pouring in?

Perplexes my simple mind.

Nonetheless, even as it has not been established beyond reasonable doubt which between poverty and family size is the cause and which is the effect, the strong correlation between the two variables is unmistakably clear. Statistics also very convincingly point to the importance of education in addressing poverty reduction and population management. This should be more than enough information to inform our decisions.

Maybe, as a US politician says, our time for change has come! PopCom, instead of spending on condoms should probably spend a big part of its budget to promote reading as a hobby, don’t you agree?

And there should be no more debate on this one - we should invest heavily on education, particularly on science and technology. I firmly believe that education should be the focus and locus of our development agenda. Because to be able to cope with the knowledge-based economies, we need to equip ourselves with, in the words of Howard Gardner, the five minds for the future: the disciplined mind, the synthesizing mind, the creating mind, the respectful mind and the ethical mind.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Condom Ads 2

As a result of the "anti-choice" groups' action in seeking the help of CBCP re: the Condom Ads, the latter was of course all over the news, with Bishop Cruz saying the usual line that it promotes "promiscuity". They see these things as "problems" that they need to interfere with.

This debate has been going on for years and years and I don't see the Church changing its position in the near future. Nevertheless, I congratulate DKT and the other groups responsible for those ads, for making it happen.

For as long as the information they give are true and correct, let it be. There is nothing illegal with that whatsoever and so there's really nothing you can do about it. Is it that hard to realize how many STDs, unwanted pregnancies and abortions those information could prevent?

And for those who feel like they're "religion" is being compromised by the ads, you have every right and the "free will" not to watch and listen. But, to prevent and deny others from hearing and getting the same when they have every right to do so is clearly unconscionable, absurd and unconstitutional.

So you see, there lies the real problem.

Condom Ads

Church help sought vs. condom ads

Pro-life and anti-abortion groups sought the help of the Catholic Church Monday in calling for a ban on condom advertisements on radio and television.

AIDS-Free Philippines, Human Life International and Family Media Advocacy argued that the advertisements promote “sexual promiscuity and licentiousness" especially among the young.

“We urge the bishops to also declare an all-out-war against this propaganda (promoting condoms)," said Rene Josef Bullecer of the AIDS-Free Philippines, in a statement posted Monday night on the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines website.

Bullecer made the call days before the 96th plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on January 25.

He said the anti-condom campaign would have more chances of winning with the backing of influential Church leaders.

The advocates called on the CBCP to also include in its agenda the proposed ban on advertising of condoms and contraceptives.

Jo Imbong, the group’s spokeswoman, said the advertisements appear even in programs that cater to the general public, including children.

The organizations already filed a complaint with the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas and the Advertising Board to ban radio and television ads “selling a condom lifestyle." - GMANews.TV

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Self-rated poverty down in 4th quarter

This does not mean "WE" do not feel poor, it only shows that instead of a rising standard of living, Filipinos do otherwise in order to survive.
By Helen Flores, The Philippine Star
Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The number of Filipinos who rate themselves as “poor” has declined in the past three months, the latest survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed.

The SWS Fourth Quarter 2007 survey found that 46 percent or 8.1 million families said they are poor, lower than the 52 percent recorded in September last year.

“Self-rated poverty has been on a generally downward trend since mid-2006,” the SWS said.

The poll showed self-rated poverty declining in all areas.

It fell by 15 points in Mindanao, from 68 percent last September to 53 percent in December.

It declined slightly in the Visayas, from 47 to 42 percent; in Metro Manila, from 41 to 39 percent; and in the rest of Luzon, from 50 to 46 percent.

Self-rated poverty fell by 10 points in rural areas, from 63 percent to 53 percent. It declined by five points in urban areas, from 44 to 39 percent.

“Rural self-rated poverty has been below 60 percent for the most part of 2004-2007, and is customarily higher than urban self-rated poverty. The urban-rural gap narrowed to single-digit in 2005 and 2006, when rural self-rated poverty alleviated and urban self-rated poverty worsened,” the SWS said.

The survey was conducted from Nov. 30 to Dec. 3 using face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults divided into random samples of 300 each in Metro Manila, the balance of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

Meanwhile, SWS said the self-rated poverty threshold, or the monthly budget that poor households need in order not to consider themselves poor in general, has been sluggish for several years despite considerable inflation.This indicates that poor families have been lowering their living standards, i.e., belt-tightening,” it added.

The median poverty threshold for poor households in Mindanao went to P8,000, an amount already reached in July 2001. It had already been at P10,000 in December 1999.

It stayed at P10,000 in Metro Manila, even though it had already reached as much as P15,000 several times in the past, and at P5,000 in the Visayas, even if it has already been at P10,000 before.

For those in balance Luzon, the median poverty threshold went down to P5,000. It had already been at P10,000 before.

In Metro Manila in particular, the poverty threshold has considerably weakened against the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which rose by over 40 percent from the base year of 2000, SWS said.

The December 2007 median poverty threshold of P10,000 per month in Metro Manila is equivalent to only P6,780 in base year 2000 purchasing power, or a throwback to living standards of twenty years ago, it said.

The SWS survey has sampling error margins of plus or minus three percent for national percentages and plus or minus six percent for area percentages.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Newsflash: Fetus found in one of Malacanang's Restroom

Was watching the news and blogging at the same time and heard the news of a fetus being found in a restroom inside MalacaƱang. That should send a very CLEAR MESSAGE to the Office of the President that lack of access to reproductive health care and services leads to UNWANTED PREGNANCIES that likewise drive some women to have an ABORTION.

If we truly value the sanctity of LIFE, as the Catholic Church often preaches, then we should not deprive women of the information they need to make responsible choices, thereby avoiding the grim and "literal" LIFE and DEATH situation for their unborn child.

The Church Organist

here's an email from Cecil Abuy, media advocate and friend from Zamboanga. Who says RH advocacy isn't fun and funny? hahaha...

Miss Beatrice, the church organist, was in her eighties and had never been married. She was admired for her sweetness and kindness to all.

One afternoon, the pastor came to call on her, and she showed him into her quaint sitting room. She invited him to have a seat while she prepared tea. As he sat facing her old Hammond organ, the young minister noticed a cut-glass bowl sitting on top of it. The bowl was filled with water, and in the water floated, of all things, a condom!

When she returned with the tea, the pastor tried to stifle his curiosity about the bowl of water and its strange floater, but soon it got the better of him, and he could no longer resist.

"Miss Beatrice", he said, "I wonder if you would tell me about this?" Pointing to the bowl.

"Oh, yes," she replied, "Isn't it wonderful? I was walking through the park a few months ago, and I found this little package on the ground. The directions said:

"Place it on the organ, keep it wet and it would prevent the spread of disease."

Then she further said, "And I haven't had the flu all winter!" =)

***If you don't send this to five OLD friends right away there will be five fewer people smiling in the world and not knowing what to do with a condom.


So instead of simply forwarding this, I blogged it! =) Happy weekend everyone!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

so what's new in 2008?

Hey there! Hope everyone had a great celebration for the new year. I got so caught up with other stuff, mostly family affairs and concerns, that it took me awhile to blog.

At any rate, the editorial piece from Phil Star dated January 3, 2008 caught my attention as I was eating breakfast at Jollibee. =) It was delightful that during these first few days of 2008, reproductive health and population issues were the focus of the editorial/opinion section of a national broadsheet. This somehow implies that the advocacy on these concerns are getting stronger and truly efficient. Hopefully, the national government would take the necessary steps very soon. After all, it's a new year..... new hope. Truly meaningful and worthwhile things should be accomplished.

Read the OP/ED piece below...

EDITORIAL – 90 million and counting

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Government officials have admitted that the benefits of economic growth are not trickling down to the masses. As various quarters have pointed out, one of the reasons for this is that economic growth cannot keep pace with population growth. There are simply too many people sharing limited resources. The Commission on Population is projecting the number of Filipinos to balloon this year to 90.1 million. Population officials say the figure would be higher if Filipino women leaving for abroad were not controlling their pregnancies for a better chance of landing jobs overseas.

Migration for birth control? The government, which has made family planning a low priority, will only be too happy to deploy more workers overseas. Their constantly increasing remittances are good for economic growth figures. But the government cannot place the burden of family planning purely on the shoulders of workers who want to leave the country because of problems that are partly caused by too many people sharing a pie that isn’t big enough. At the very least, the government should inform the people about their options in planning the size of their families. Women must have sufficient knowledge of reproductive health and the options available to them in spacing pregnancies.

The House of Representatives is taking a more active role in promoting family planning by setting aside a portion of the proposed 2008 national budget for the purchase of contraceptives for distribution in government health centers. The executive should match this initiative at least with an effective information campaign on birth control. That kind of information can even save lives. Studies have shown that every year, hundreds of thousands of Filipino women, a number of them teenagers, terminate unwanted pregnancies through abortion, mostly at the hands of midwives.

No one is advocating abortion as part of the government’s family planning program. The most that family planning advocates are hoping for from a government that is scared of losing Church support is an effective information program. If the government is allowing the Church to dictate state policy, it should remember that one of the bedrocks of Christianity is free will, with the choices based on sufficient knowledge. Women should be fully informed of their options and reproductive rights, and be allowed to make an informed choice.