PH births drop to 34-year low amid the pandemic

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 11) — The Philippines saw the fewest number of Filipinos born following the onset of the pandemic in 2020, the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) said.

Citing preliminary data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the commission on Monday said the country registered 1,516,042 million babies last year.

This is the lowest in over three decades or since 1986, when only 1,493,995 Filipinos were born.

The number was also compared to that of 2019, which was 1,673,923 million or higher by 157,881.

Undersecretary for Population and Development Juan Antonio Perez III attributed the "significant" decline in the birth rate to the "combined impacts of fewer marriages, women delaying pregnancies during the pandemic, and the increase in women using modern family planning methods to prevent unplanned pregnancies."

"What we feared at the onset of the pandemic did not happen," Perez said. "It is clear Filipino women are deciding to delay having children, and families are deferring or avoiding [having] more kids, as they were made well-aware of the possible hardships and inconveniences in securing medical as well as family planning services."

POPCOM said the country also recorded the lowest number of marriages in 20 years.

It said only 240,183 couples tied the knot in 2020, 44% fewer than the 431,972 who got married in the preceding year.

Perez projected the slowdown in marriages, pregnancies, and childbirths to go on until the end of 2021.

"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.

The POPCOM official pointed out, however, that there may be delays in the registry of births, especially in the provinces where there are difficulties in the reporting of childbirths.

In addition, the country's fertility rate decreased to 2.5 births per woman from at least six in the 1960s.

Perez cited the November 2020 study conducted by Social Weather Stations, which revealed that unplanned or unintended pregnancies were among the major concerns of many Filipino women amid the pandemic.

It was also reported that they were most worried about the impact of COVID-19 on their well-being, as well as of their families and their unborn children, and the country's overall condition.

But despite the situation, POPCOM said the nation saw an improvement in family planning services in 2020, with an addition of 400,000 users. This brought the total number of protected Filipino men, women, and couples to over eight million.

Perez said he expects the situation in the Philippines to normalize post-pandemic, "when fertility and the steadily dipping number of marriages will see a possible rebound, similar to what occurred after World War 2."

"Filipinos will eventually learn to live with COVID-19. As such, we may see increased births, with family planning helping couples avoid unplanned pregnancies, unlike in the late 1940s and 1950s," he added.