But as PDSA co-author and the University of the Philippines Professor Michael del Mundo said, the promise of rapid economic growth does not automatically come with shifts in the country’s demographic structure.
For the demographic dividend to happen, the most important investment, said Prof. del Mundo said, should be made in “building the capacities of our women and young people to reach their full potential.” He identified three strategies toward this end:
- Tailoring the basic education curriculum to the skills young females and males need to succeed in the digital workplace;
- Services to meet their health needs, especially as they enter their reproductive phase; and
- Policies to level the playing field for women in terms of gainful and stable work, and business opportunities.
Dr. Judith Borja, the lead author of a longitudinal study that also delved into how Filipino children fared during the peak of COVID-19, said girls are making headways compared to boys in terms of school performance, health, and overall well-being.
However, these gains might slide if the health, safety, and overall well-being needs of young girls in the next life stages will not be met.
Shocks such as disasters can also cause backslides in the individual and economic well-being of young women, as pointed out by Ms. Mylene Quiray of the Philippine Commission on Population and Development.
On top of these, a few fundamental realities continue to hinder women from getting gainful work and realizing their full potential. The PDSA noted women of working age continue to fall behind men in terms of employment, as seen in the labor force participation rate (LFPR). Danica Shahana Magtubo, Youth Sexual & Reproductive Health & Rights Officer at the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights, elaborated on this point:
The PDSA recommended looking into longer paid leaves, child-rearing support, and other incentives for women to remain in the workforce or in business after childbearing.
Meanwhile, the PDSA also noted a sharp decline in the total fertility rate from 2017 to 2022 after years of sluggish decline. If sustained, this trend can bring a positive impact on the productivity of working-age Filipinos and the country at large. However, Dr. Diego Danila of the Department of Health recommended viewing the current numbers with caution.
Prof. del Mundo agreed that whether the pace of fertility slowed as a coping mechanism during the pandemic, or a result of structural changes, the takeaway for government and nongovernment actors is to invest in taking these gains further.
Budget lobbying by JP INFF partners lead to P1.7-billion for reproductive health
Amenah Rasul Natangcop of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) shared the results of their yearlong budget advocacy towards better reproductive health, and the well-being of girls and women. This advocacy rides on the previous administration’s move to make the prevention of teenage pregnancies a national priority under Executive Order 141.
PLCPD’s advocacy efforts led to at least P1.66 billion in the budgets of the Department of Health, Department of Education, and Department of Social Welfare and Development, respectively.
Natangcop shared their experience in engaging civil society organizations, line agencies, and legislators at various phases of the budget cycle. Their experience underscored the importance of aligning the advocacy for funding good health and other SDGs with the timelines of the Budget Cycle.
Ms. Quiray agrees. “The best time to start the work is the first Quarter of a given year,” she said. “It is when POPCOM and other agencies plan where and for which programs we will allocate our proposed budget. But take note that the budget advocacy you can do for this year will influence the 2024 Budget.”
Below is PLCPD’s timeline for engaging government and civil society champions within the timeline of the Budget Cycle:
Originally published INFF Philippines