Friday, December 04, 2009

On the Philippines, its demographics, and relative demographic weight

I've two news articles concerning the demographics of the Philippines I'd like to share with you.

The first is Maragtas S.V. Amante's ABS-CBN News "Korea – Pinoy mixed marriages and tensions in the multicultural family", which examines the problems facing Filipino women migrating to South Korea to marry local men left without marriage candidates by sex ratios biased strongly agaisnt women. I mentioned in the East Asian context before, most often in relation to South Korea but also in regards to Taiwan. This is the first time I've linked to an article describing the phenomenon from the Filipino side.

Koreans on their own spend an average of 13 million won ($10,600) in costs for interracial marriages according to the Korea Consumer Agency (KCA). There are 1,044 matchmaking companies in Korea. The most popular country as source of “brides” was Vietnam followed by China. It takes an average of 88 days, or about three months, to complete an interracial marriage through agencies ― from the Korean applicant's departure to interview with his or her prospective spouse and their entry to Korea. Global mixed marriages have a gender and social equity dimension: the male is from a rich country, and the female is from a poor country.

[. . .]

Matchmaking agencies contract marriages between Koreans and foreign nationals, including the Philippines. In April 2009, approximately 6,000 Filipinos married to South Koreans reside in the peninsula. Philippine Ambassador to Korea Luis Cruz says however that the Embassy have been regularly warning Filipinos against illegal marriage brokers. A Philippine law, the Anti-Mail-Order Bride Law (RA6955), makes it illegal for a "person, natural or juridical, association, club or any other entity" to "establish or carry on a business which has for its purpose the matching of Filipino women for marriage to foreign nationals either on a mail-order basis or through personal introduction." While international marriage broker agencies are legal in South Korea, they cannot legally operate in the Philippines because it violates RA 6955.

The Philippine Embassy in Korea has received many complaints by Filipina wives of abuses committed by their Korean husbands, both as consequence or cause of abandonment of the home, separation and divorce. These complainants entered into the marriage through the services of illegal marriage brokers operating in the Philippines. Many are quick to accept the whirlwind marriage in order to seek employment abroad and have a better life. However, they receive false information on the partner’s family background and face human rights violations in an unfamiliar home abroad, isolated from the community and society, and no preparation in culture and language.

[. . .]

The Philippine Embassy in Korea has received many complaints by Filipina wives of abuses committed by their Korean husbands, both as consequence or cause of abandonment of the home, separation and divorce. These complainants entered into the marriage through the services of illegal marriage brokers operating in the Philippines. Many are quick to accept the whirlwind marriage in order to seek employment abroad and have a better life. However, they receive false information on the partner’s family background and face human rights violations in an unfamiliar home abroad, isolated from the community and society, and no preparation in culture and language.


This movement to newly high-income South Korea and Taiwan is one of the more prominent recent expansions of the Filipino diaspora. There are something on the order of ten Overseas Filipinos out of a national population of some 92 million, including both members of relatively temporary labour diasporas and permanently-settled communities, plays a critical role in their home country's political economy. Wikipedia's population estimates seem broadly accurate, suggesting that there are under three million in the United States that once colonized the archipelago, perhaps two million in the Persian Gulf states with a particular emphasis on Saudi Arabia, a half-million Filipino Canadians and between two hundred thousand and a quarter-million Filipinos in Australia, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, and Japan. The Philippines' historic links with Spain have faded, replaced by the consequences of the long American involvement in the Philippines and the use of English, with Overseas Filipinos being concentrated firstly in Anglophone countries, secondly in Persian Gulf states with close ties to first the United Kingdom and then the United States, and finally in the Philippines' Southeast and East Asian neighbours. The Filipino Canadian community is widely dispersed throughout Canada, with large numbers dispersed throughout non-first tier cities like the Manitoba capital of Winnipeg.

The second is a straight-forward demographic projection from the Manila Bulletin, "184 million Pinoys by 2040".

At the current growth rate, the Philippines’ population may reach 184.4 million by 2040 to place it on 10th place as the most populated country, the Population Commission (PopCom) said Saturday.

[. . .]

Currently, the Philippines has a population of 92.2 million and the said figures will eventually double in 31 years to place the country in 10th spot.

The PopCom official revealed that the country’s population growth rate is 2.04 percent annually but the same could increase further if the government could not implement appropriate measures to significantly reduce the rather high growth rate.

Even if the country’s growth rate is on a downward trend because of the massive information and education campaign on artificial and natural birth control methods, population experts cited the same would not mean a decrease in the country’s population since the country has a very high incremental rate and lots of children.

Furthermore, it was discovered that Filipino women have a high fertility rate as a woman gives birth to an average of three children during their fertile years.

It was also noted that 24 percent of the country’s population falls on the adolescent category and almost 50 percent represent individuals aged 15 years and over, which is an indication of expected high fertility of the women who are expected to give birth to more children in the next several years.


While the direction and volume of the Filipino diaspora has been conditioned by language and history, it's currently driven by economic factors. Once one of the most developed economies in East Asia after only Japan, thanks to heavy investment in infrastructure and education, the Filipino economy has been marked by relative decline, its substantial economic potential wasted by years of bad policies, not least by Ferdinand Marcos' kleptocracy in the 1970s and 1980s. A consultation of the Penn World Tables reveals that the Philippines has not only been left far behind of South Korea and Taiwan in terms of GDP per capita, but Thailand's GDP per capita has risen from a position below the Philippines to twice the Filipino figure, and Indonesia and even Vietnam have mostly or entirely caught up Possessing substantial amounts of cultural and economic capital, and with strong incentives to leave the country in search for a better life and funds to support families, Filipinos accordingly left in huge numbers. The remittances sent back by this diaspora play a major role in the country: one of the largest remittance-receiving countries in the world, the remittances subsidize living standards. Even as the Philippines moves towards a more stable high-growth path akin to that of many of its Southeast Asian neighbours, the tradition of migration has been established.

What will happen to the Philippines in the future? I've a few predictions.

  • The relative economic deprivation faced by Filipinos in their homeland and the tradition of migration will continue, notwithstanding any economic growth in the future. Absolute wealth hasn't discouraged emigration, rather relative wealth does, and even if the Philippines catches up to its Southeast Asian neighbours there will still be yawning gaps between the Philippines and high-income countries.

  • High-income East Asia is going to become the next major receiving area for Filipino migrants, after the Anglophone world and the Middle East. The pathways established by Filipino migrants to South Korea and Taiwan can be reasonably expected to grow independently of sex ratio bias, in the context of population aging and workforce shrinkage. Similarly, the numbers of the Filipino community in Japan may be expected to grow if Japan opens its doors to some immigration.

  • The Philippines will enjoy very favourable demographics. With a young and well-educated population located in the middle of a prosperous region with close ties to any number of high-income countries, the Philippines has the potential to catch up economically to its neighbours and maybe even surpass them: the projected rapid aging of Thailand's population won't contribute positively to that country's economic future.

  • Finally, as the second article suggests, the rapid growth of the Philippines' population--called frightening by some, a potential economic opportunity by others--will sharply increase its weight in Southeast Asia and the world. Looking at the medium variant scenarios in the UN's World Population Prospects database, in the 1950-2040 period, Indonesia's population quadrupled (from 77 million) while the Philippines' grew by a factor of seven (from 20 million). Thailand, a nation that also was home to 20 million people in 1950, is going to see its population peak at 73 million in 2040 before slowly shrinking barring unexpected surprises. Even Vietnam, a country home to 27 million in 1950, has just seen its total population figures surpassed by the Philippines. This growth will be even greater relative to high-income East Asia: whereas the number of Filipinos was one-fifth the combined populations of Japan and South Korea, by 2040 the Philippines is expected to arrive on par. More, if Taiwan's population peaks in the area of 20 million, the Philippines' population will come not far short of all of high-income East Asia. (All these are projections, of course, but usefully indicative nonetheless.)


  • Between the previously-mentioned growth of Indonesia as a migrant-sending country and the Philippines, I speak only half in jest when I suggest that the 21st century since the waves of Austronesian-speaking migrants which led to the colonization of points as dispersed as Madagascar and Easter Island.

    2 comments:

    Nakabunot Kay said...

    I was shocked to read the articles especially the first one. I've always thought that there are a lot of Filipinas who marry foreigners and leave the Philippines thus contributing to a better Philippine remittance industry when they will send money back home. I was saddened by the article. I just hope the remittance Philippines industry will stay strong even with all the negative issues.

    John said...

    It's terrible how mail order brides still exist. I didn't know Filipinas are now being paired with well off Asians as well. I really can't blame the women since as you said it's economically rooted. But what does that say about the traffickers? They're awful black hearted people.

    As far as the population growth expectations go, would you think that the very high migration rate would play a role? Do you foresee generations of half-Filipinos coming back or would the immigration rate increase and be the cause of population flattening in the Philippines?