Pandemic drives PH population growth to slowest in 75 years

Pandemic drives PH population growth to slowest in 75 years

But POPCOM, health expert say decline not necessarily a bad thing

By Joyce Pangco Pañares

Amid the lockdowns and uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more Filipinos are opting not to have children.

In the monthly online roundtable discussion hosted by the Philippine Press Institute titled “Pagpipigil sa Panggigigil,” Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) executive director Juan Perez III said more Filipinos availed of family planning methods last year.

“Women are opting not to have children during this time when you have a health as well as an economic crisis,” Perez said, adding that having a child would take up as much as a third of a couple’s savings.

The fear of contracting the virus as well as the presence of all family members at home due to the lockdowns and mobility curbs have also “killed the mood” for most couples.

“The pandemic has killed the spontaneity… Sexual intimacy is being taken aside because there are a lot of issues that you have to deal with,” said St. Luke’s Medical Center psychiatrist Bernadette Monteclaro-Manalo.

POPCOM data projected the country’s population to increase by only 0.3 percent or 324,000 in 2021.

In 2020, the natural increase in population was at 914,797, or a 0.79 percent hike.    

Last year’s annual natural increase was the lowest since the period between 1946 and 1947, when the population grew by only 254,000.

More than a year since the global pandemic struck, its damage to population growth has started to become starkly clear, and not just in the Philippines.

COVID-19 has suppressed population growth by causing a decline in births, migration and life expectancy.

The US recorded its lowest rate of population growth in its history from July 2020 to July 2021, which was also the first time since 1937 that the population of the US grew by fewer than 1 million people.

China’s population growth rate has also fallen to its lowest level in six decades, barely outnumbering deaths in 2021 despite major government efforts to increase population growth and stave off a demographic crisis.

But for Perez and Manalo, the slow population growth is not a bad thing for the Philippines.

The low increase, Perez said, has provided opportunities for attaining a more stable population that can support socioeconomic development at the national and household levels if integrated population and development interventions are sustained.

While some 4 million Filipinos fell deeper into poverty, some 800,000 were lifted out of economic hardship, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed.

“The low population growth means a greater chance for the country and households to recover from the COVID-19 outbreak, coupled with the national and local governments’ increased capabilities in providing quality services,” Perez said.