Fertility decline in the Philippines: Current status, future prospects

Type Journal Article - Completing the fertility transition
Title Fertility decline in the Philippines: Current status, future prospects
Volume 48
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2009
Page numbers 479
URL http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Edith_Pantelides/publication/255660160_COMPLETING_THE_FERTILITY_​TRANSITION_THE_CASE_OF_ARGENTINA/links/53f766320cf2823e5bd6d816.pdf#page=492
Demographers have been closely monitoring the trend in fertility in the Philippines since the 1960s. The first national survey that included detailed measurement of reproductive
behaviours and childbearing desires was the 1968 National Demographic Survey. Almost simultaneously, and by no means coincidentally, the reduction of the rate of population
growth was articulated as national policy, followed soon thereafter by the provision of family planning services through Government outlets beginning in the early 1970s. Successive
National Demographic Surveys (NDS) were conducted at five-year intervals, with the 1968 NDS followed by the 1973 NDS and continuing through the 1998 National Demographic and Health Survey, seven surveys in total. Few countries in any region of the world —developing or developed— have maintained periodic and comprehensive measurement of reproductive behaviour and its components over such an extended period of time. The trajectory of fertility decline is better understood, and with more precision, in the Philippines than in most countries.
The plethora of demographic data has by no means quelled the debates surrounding fertility levels and trends in the Philippines. In the early years, the demographic data provided some indications that the Philippines might follow the rapid fertility path of East Asian nations such as the Republic of Korea and Taiwan Province of China: fertility estimates from the 1978 national survey showed that fertility decline had accelerated during the 1970s, in step with the expanded availability of family planning services in the first half of the decade. But later surveys revealed that a rapid pace of decline was not maintained. Instead, brief bursts of rapid decline were followed by longer stretches of languid decline (Zablan, 2000). The overall picture is of a fertility transition that has proceeded far more slowly than most neighbouring countries in East and South-East Asia, and at the beginning of this decade the TFR was approximately 3.5 births per woman, a substantial distance above replacement level. A review of the past three decades shows that, when the Government policy has included explicit goals, the amount of fertility decline has consistently fallen short of those goals (Zablan, 2000). The related questions that have prompted a two-decades-old debate are: Why has fertility not declined more rapidly in the Philippines? What sets the Philippines’ experience apart from neighbouring countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Republic of Korea and Viet Nam?
These questions are retrospective. In this paper, our concern is prospective: Where is fertility heading in the next few decades? When, if ever, is the Philippines likely to attain replacement-level fertility? As a pivoting point for this discussion, we note that the most recent projections by the United Nations Population Division—the 2000 Revision (United Nations, 2001)—show replacement-level fertility (TFR = 2.1) attained in the period 2015-2020, i.e., roughly 15 years from the present. Our aim in this paper is to evaluate the reasonableness of this projection and, more specifically, to consider what factors (social, economic, cultural, programmatic) might facilitate, or impede, the progression of fertility from its current level in excess of three births per woman to a national average of two births per woman.

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