MANILA, Philippines — The country recorded the fewest number of babies born in 34 years in 2020—the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic—as the number of couples getting married also dropped to its lowest in two decades, according to the Commission on Population and Development (Popcom).
Citing preliminary data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Popcom Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III reported on Sunday a “significant drop” of 9.43 percent in the number of births registered last year, down to 1,516,042 from 1,673,923 in 2019.
It was the lowest in the country since 1986 when the 21-yearlong Marcos dictatorship ended through the first People Power revolt. That year, 1,493,995 Filipinos were born.
“What we feared at the onset of the pandemic did not happen,” Perez said in a statement. “From the PSA numbers, it is clear that Filipino women are deciding to delay having children, and families are deferring or avoiding, to have more kids, as they [are] 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,” he added.
The country’s fewest number of marriages in 20 years was also recorded in 2020, with only 240,183 couples tying the knot, a 44-percent reduction compared to 431,972 couples in 2019. The number of marriages, however, has been declining since 2003.
On top of the low number of couples getting hitched, Perez also attributed the decline in birth rate last year to more women using modern family planning methods and deciding to delay pregnancies during the pandemic.
But he said there was also a possibility that the registry of births might have been delayed, especially in the countryside, since midwives could have found it difficult to report the births due to lockdown restrictions.
The COVID-19 pandemic was officially declared in March last year, prompting global lockdowns for months afterward.
The PSA, meanwhile, reported 613,267 deaths nationwide in 2020.
Trend to continue
According to the Popcom, it expected the slowdown in pregnancies, births, and marriages to continue this year, based on official figures during the first quarter.
From January to March 2021, the PSA recorded 268,833 registered births, with the Popcom noting that the average number of births during the first quarter was usually 350,000.
As for marriages, there were 87,120 registered during the first three months. “If the trend continues, we can see an even smaller addition to the population by year-end,” Perez said.
The country’s fertility rate was currently at 2.5 births per woman, from a high of six births in the 1960s.
But the Popcom official was optimistic that the numbers of births and marriages could possibly rebound after the pandemic, similar to what occurred when World War II ended in 1945.
“Filipinos will eventually learn to live with COVID-19 and we may see increased births after the era of COVID-19,” Perez said.
Still, he noted that data from the PSA showed that around 400,000 more households used family planning services last year, which brought to more than 8 million the number of Filipino households that plan the frequency of pregnancies. INQ
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