Science and Environment

Batang Ina

STAR SCIENCE - Mercedes B. Concepcion, PhD - The Philippine Star

In early February 2014, the University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI) and the Demographic Research and Development Foundation (DRDF) disseminated the preliminary findings of the 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality study (YAFS 4). One of the startling results divulged then was the sharp increase in teen pregnancy between 2002 and 2013. This finding was bolstered by the results of the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) which disclosed that fertility had declined in all five-year age groups of women with the exception of the youngest, 15–19 year olds, which had manifested increases since 1998. Furthermore, the peak age of childbearing had dropped from ages 25–29 to 20–24 years, notably in the last five years. This move goes against the experience of rapid fertility decline countries like Japan and Singapore, where the peak of childbearing had shifted upwards for women in their twenties to their thirties.

The YAFS, conducted in 1982, 1994, 2002 and 2013, are a nationally representative cross-sectional survey of the Filipino youth aged 15–24. The YAFS studies cover a wide range of information about today’s youth such as their education, labor force participation, family relationships and the role of parents in their lives, attitudes and values, personal characteristics like self-esteem, and adverse conditions like suicide and depression symptoms, all of which are relevant to our understanding of this significant segment of Philippine society.

The preliminary results of the 2013 YAFS round presented by UPPI/DRDF showed increased teenage fertility in the past decade (See #Sexy Time: Sexual Behavior of Pinoy Young Adults. 2014. Maria Paz N. Marquez. UPPI and DRDF). The proportion of females 15–19 years old who were mothers more than doubled from 2002 to 2013 (4.4 % to 11 %). The percentage of girls in their late teens who were pregnant with their first child at the time of the survey rose from less than 2 percent in 2002 to close to 3 percent 11 years later. More significant was the more than doubling in the percentage of these late teen girls who had begun childbearing, 6 percent in 2002 to 14 percent in 2013. These proportions increase with increasing age where more than one-in-five 18 year olds had begun childbearing as compared with more than a third among those aged 19 years. Regionally, the highest teenage fertility (over 18%) was reported in CAR and in the Cagayan Valley and lowest (around 8 %) in Bicol and in CALABARZON.

These heightened levels of teen fertility can be traced to the bolder and wider range of sexual behavior including the use of new ICT. One third of Pinoy youth have engaged in premarital sex (PMS) with the prevalence increasing over the years. In 1994, 18 percent of youth had engaged in premarital sex as opposed to 32 percent in 2013 with proportionally more boys engaging in sex before marriage (37%) than girls (29%) in 2013 as contrasted with the percentages in 1994 (26% and 10%, respectively). The gap between the sexes narrowed over time.  

Higher levels of premarital sex were reported among youth in their early 20s (54%) as compared to those aged 15–19 (17%); and those who are living-in (74%) as contrasted with those never married (21%) or formally married (60%).

As expected, the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, Davao, Central Visayas, Western Mindanao, CAR, CARAGA, and Northern Mindanao surpassed the national MS level of youth engaging in sex before marriage, with levels ranging from 33 to 41 percent. The lowest level (8%) was reported in ARMM.

Four out of ten youth who had engaged in sex before marriage for the first time were not protected against the risk of pregnancy and/or STI.  Close to four in five males were unprotected during their first sexual encounter as contrasted with more than four-out-of-five female youth. Almost similar proportions were reported for those in their late teens (79%) and youth in their early twenties (77%). The proportions unprotected were also very high (84%) among those formally married and those living-in as compared with those never married (73%).

Among those with premarital experience, condom proved to be the most popular method during their first sexual encounter.  Two out of five practiced withdrawal. Although the prevalence of commercial sex remains low, less than 1.5 percent, most of it is unprotected. But Pinoy youth have also engaged in other sexual activities like casual sex (14 % for boys and less than 1.5% for girls). Four in one hundred young Pinoys, mostly males, also engage in FUBU (fuck buddies), with a fifth of those youth using condoms during their last FUBU encounter. At least five percent of male youth have had sex with a fellow male (MSM).

The youth also engage in media-related sexual practices.  One in 100 has recorded himself/herself having sex. One in four has sent or received sex videos through cellular phones or through the Internet. Four in 100 had sex with someone they met online or through text messages.  Six in 100 have engaged in phone sex. The foregoing behaviors are expected given that the youth are digitally wired with 78 percent owning a cellular phone; 59 percent using the Internet; 53 percent having a social networking account and 52 percent an email account.

In sum, there is a heightened, bolder and wider range of sexual behavior including those that use the new ICT. There are notable gender differentials in all sexual activities with higher levels found among males compared to females. Most of the sexual activities are unprotected against the risk of unplanned pregnancy and STIs. Teenage fertility has increased in the past decade.

The 2013 NDHS, the 10th in a series of surveys conducted every five years since 1968, provides basic information on fertility, childhood mortality, contraceptive knowledge and use, maternal and child health, and knowledge regarding HIV/AIDS, and in addition, for the 2009 and 2013 survey rounds, data on violence against women. All women 15 to 49 years of age, who are members of all sample households, were interviewed.

The 2013 NDHS revealed that fertility had declined from 6.0 children per woman in 1968 to 3.0 children in 2013.  However, the rate of decline has slackened during the last two decades. The rate decreased by one child per decade during the period 1973 to 1993 and half a child per decade in the next two decades, 1993–2013. This current rate of 3.0 children per woman earns for the Philippines the dubious distinction of being the most fertile among ASEAN countries.

The 2013 NDHS data disclosed that childbearing begins early, peaking at ages 20–24 and 25–29 years, falling sharply thereafter. On the average, urban women produced one child less than their rural counterparts (2.5 versus 3.5).  Compared to an earlier decade, these rates are about one birth less per woman. 

According to UPPI’s Dr. Grace Cruz, while the findings highlight that fertility transition is underway, fertility convergence has yet to be achieved as noted in the persistent urban-rural differential. Dr. Cruz wonders whether the downward shift in the peak age of childbearing along with increasing teen fertility indicates that more women are now initiating their fertility careers earlier but at the same time completing their childbearing sooner than the older cohorts.  This is something worth looking into more closely to help us understand better the Philippine fertility trajectory.

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Dr. Mercedes B. Concepcion is a member of the National Academy of Science and Technology Philippines (NAST PHL) and a National Scientist. A well known Filipino expert in demography, Dr. Concepcion was instrumental in the establishment of the University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI), serving as its Director and then its Dean from 1965 to 1985.  Upon retirement from the UP in 1993, she was appointed University Professor Emeritus. Dr. Concepcion was appointed the first Philippine Representative to the United Nations Population Commission in 1967, the first Woman to chair this Commission from 1969 to 1977, and the first Asian woman to be elected President of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population in 1981-1985.  She chaired the Special Committee to Review the Philippine Statistical System which led to the establishment of the National Statistical Coordination Board in 1976 and 20 years later, was appointed member of the Review Committee on the Statistical System which recommended legislation for setting up the Philippine Statistics Authority which was passed into law on 31 October 2013.   Dr. Concepcion is presently chair of the Inter-Agency Working Group on Population Projections. She can be contacted at NAST PHL: [email protected].









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