Rapid Population Growth, Crowded Cities Present Challenges in the Philippines

by Yvette Collymore

(June 2003) Fast-paced population growth and rampant urbanization represent some of the major population concerns in the Philippines, a country of 80 million people where the average number of children born to a woman is close to four and where a sizeable 37 percent of the population is under age 15.

These issues represent major stumbling blocks in efforts to reduce poverty and improve living standards in the Philippines. In 2000, roughly one-third of the population (nearly 27 million Filipinos) lacked the roughly US$275 required annually to satisfy food and non-food basic needs, the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) estimates. Such poverty, exacerbated by prolonged El Niño-induced drought and the residual effects of the 1997/1998 financial crisis that shook the region, limits the ability of the poor to gain access to health and other services.

The Philippines is also among the world’s fastest urbanizing countries, and overcrowded cities present their own challenges. With some 47 percent of the population living in urban areas, compared with 31 percent in Thailand and 16 percent in Cambodia, the country has more than 200 urban areas that have populations of more than 50,000, notes the country’s Commission on Population (POPCOM). By World Bank estimates, these urban centers could expand to some 600 by 2020, largely because high levels of rural poverty are pushing people into the cities.

The concentration of economic development in relatively few urban areas and rapid population growth throughout the country are other factors contributing to urban sprawl. Compared with other countries in the region, the Philippines is experiencing rapid population growth. The rate of natural increase — the birth rate minus the death rate — is 2.2 percent, compared with 0.8 percent in Thailand and Singapore and 1.9 percent in Malaysia.

In addition to fleeing to urban commercial centers, many people leave the country for work. An average of 2,500 Filipinos leave the country every day for work abroad, and the Philippines is second only to Mexico as an exporter of labor. An estimated 10 percent of the country’s population, or nearly 8 million people, are overseas Filipino workers distributed in 182 countries, according to POPCOM. That is in addition to the estimated 3 million migrants who work illegally abroad. According to official statistics of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Filipino workers abroad sent home US$6.8 billion in 1999 alone. A large proportion of these remittances come from women who are the majority of overseas Filipino workers.

(Click on the link below to view the Demographic Variable Table)

Yvette Collymore is senior editor at PRB.

Source: http://www.prb.org/Articles/2003/RapidPopulationGrowthCrowdedCitiesPresentChallengesinthePhilippines.aspx

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