IT’S 2018, and the Commission on Population (PopCom) has promptly issued its latest population estimates. The Philippine population is expected to grow by 1.69 percent, or 1.8 million, by the end of 2018, according to PopCom Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez 3rd.
The 1.8-million estimated increase in population “means we will be adding 4,965 Filipinos per day, or 206 every hour, in 2018,” said Perez.
There’s nothing wrong, of course, with highlighting the challenges wrought by a growing population.
PopCom’s statement, however, strikes the wrong tone; it’s condescending, even to the Filipinos it is supposed to serve.
What does PopCom mean by this? It’s 2018, but the agency seems to be trapped still in the Western population-bogey rhetoric of the 1970s. Does it think that Filipinos have nothing better to do but reproduce like rabbits?
“A noticeable increase will also be among women of reproductive age,” PopCom said, as if women are at fault for being fertile.
“By the end of 2018,” it added, “there will be around 27,713,110 women of reproductive age (aged 15-49), an increase of over 400,000 from the previous year’s projection.”
The agenda is obvious as it added that: “These women are usually the beneficiaries of reproductive health services under the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health law.” PopCom condescends again, assuming that our women do not want their fertility and sorely need help.
The nastiest cut was reserved for our elderly. “[T]he age group over 60 continues to grow by almost a fourth of a percentage (0.23 percent) over 2017 projections. By year-end 2018, there will be 8,013,059 Filipinos over 60, constituting 8.2 percent of Filipinos,” PopCom said, as if the elderly are to blame for lasting this long amid improving life expectancies.
What PopCom lacks is context.
The country’s population growth rate has in fact gone down from 2.36 percent in 1995, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.
The fertility rate has also gone down from more than four children per woman in 1995 to less than three at present. PopCom itself in fact noted that “ the younger age groups are declining in percentage share compared to 2017 projections: 0-4, 0-14, 10-19 and 15-49. The steepest declines will be seen in the 0-14 (0.30 percent decline) and 10-19 (0.23 percent decline).”
For PopCom, these do not seem to be enough; at the very least Filipinos do not seem to get credit for the decline in population and fertility.
To its credit, PopCom took note of the burgeoning population of people aged 15-64, the economically active demographic group that is now at about 64 percent of the population.
But it cannot be rejoicing at the growth of one segment of the population while seemingly regretting the expansion in others.
PopCom should look forward and learn from the mistakes of other countries like Thailand, whose aggressive population strategy in the 1970s has resulted in the beginnings of population aging.
France is spending mightily on childbirth incentives to reverse its population decline, while Russia seems to be a lost cause.
PopCom should be proposing policies to ensure that the Philippine population will grow sustainably, in support of the booming economy.