By Addison Pascua

PHOTO: Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP / Manila Bulletin

In contrast to earlier predictions, the COVID-19 pandemic may have forced many Filipinos to delay their pregnancies as the Philippines continues to record fewer childbirths during the onset of the health crisis in 2020.

Based on the Jan. 26 report of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the number of recorded live births in 2020 has plateaued to 1.53 million, 8.7 percent lower compared to the 1.67 million registered in 2019.

“On the average, 4,177 babies were born daily, which translates to 174 babies born per hour or approximately three (3) babies born per minute,” the report read.

According to PSA, the latest figures were the largest decline ever recorded since the downward trend first noted in 2012. In 2019, it was observed that the number of registered births was increasing but drastically declined when the pandemic happened in 2020.

“A decrease of -14.6 percent in the registered live births was noted in the past eight years, from 1,790,367 in 2012 to 1,528,684 in 2020. The highest decline rate was noted in 2020 (-8.7%) compared to the total registered live births of 1,673,923 in 2019,” PSA added.

On the other hand, a Philippine Daily Inquirer report, citing the preliminary PSA data, revealed that the number of recorded live births from January to November 2021 sharply declined “by an even faster 23.8 percent to 1.08 million from 1.41 million during the first 11 months of 2020.”

To recall, the Commission on Population (PopCom) earlier projected an increased birth rate in the Philippines when the COVID-19 broke out as most families were forced to stay inside their homes due to quarantine measures.

However, this projection did not occur as births in the country continued to shrink, even posting the biggest drop amid the pandemic.

In October 2021, Undersecretary for Population and Development Juan Antonio Perez III linked the decline in the number of births to the pandemic’s effect on healthcare access in the country that may have pushed thousands of couples to delay having more kids.

“What we feared at the onset of the pandemic did not happen…. From the PSA numbers, it is clear Filipino women are deciding to delay having children, and families are deferring, or avoiding, to have more kids, as they were made well-aware of the possible hardships and inconveniences in securing medical, as well as family planning services, since the pandemic has severely impeded healthcare systems,” Perez said.

Edited by Kyla Balatbat