In the Philippines, by a 1988 presidential proclamation, every March is Women’s Role in History Month, and the first week of March is Women’s Week. By law (Republic Act No. 6949, 1990), next Monday March 8th is our National Women’s Day, coinciding with International Women’s Day in the world.
Two weeks ago, SWS issued the report, “Fourth Quarter 2020 Social Weather Survey items for the Commission on Population and Development (Popcom): Early teenage pregnancy tops the most important problems of women today,” www.sws.org.ph, 2/17/21. The release (downloadable at the SWS website) was made at the survey’s presentation at a Popcom dissemination forum that day.
The survey was based on face-to-face interviews with a representative sample of 1,500 adults nationwide (error margin, 3 percent). The main commissioned question was “What do you think is the most important problem of WOMEN today?” It showed a list of six Popcom-suggested answers from which to choose one answer, but told respondents that unlisted answers were acceptable. The Popcom suggestions were on cards reshuffled for every respondent.
The national percentages: a. Early teenage pregnancy, 59; b. Physical violence, 11; c. Unexpected pregnancy, 11; d. Sexual violence, 7; e. Emotional violence, 7; f. Lack of service/information on family planning, 4; and g. Others (unlisted), 1.
The problem of early teenage pregnancy stands out very clearly from the rest. The percentages citing it are 51 in Metro Manila, 56 in the Rest of Luzon, 60 in Visayas and 67 in Mindanao, i.e. the more serious, the farther from the capital.
The government’s efforts to solve whatever is the most serious problem are called adequate by 57 percent, and inadequate by 24 percent; 17 percent are undecided.
Men and women have both experienced intense hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic, but women’s joblessness disadvantage has remained. The impact of the pandemic on the people’s well-being is counted not only by the thousands that have died, fallen ill, and been infected by the disease, but more so by the many new millions of hungry families, poor families, and jobless persons, due to the authorities’ dread—exaggerated, in my opinion—of dire consequences if they lift their draconian restrictions on the people’s movements. I align myself personally with the call of the Foundation for Economic Freedom, of which I am a founding member, to liberalize the economy.
SWS has always measured hunger and poverty in terms of distressed families, not persons, on the ground that a family naturally shares its hardship, just as it shares its bounty, equitably among its members (see “Sounding the hunger alarm,” 10/3/20; and “Surveys of suffering,” 10/10/20). These family well-being indicators’ only gender-ID is that of the family head; and there is not much difference between male-headed and female-headed families.
The main SWS indicators of personal well-being are Gainers-minus-Losers in the past year, Optimists-minus-Pessimists in the coming year, and current joblessness (see “Catastrophic times,” 8/15/20; and “The destruction of jobs,” 8/22/20). In the November 2020 SWS survey, Net Gainers were at -48 among men, and -49 among women, while Net Optimists were +33 among men and +38 among women; thus, no gender difference in these trend indicators.
The disadvantage of women, both before and during the pandemic, is on finding and keeping jobs. Their joblessness percentage was a record-high 56 last July, 51 in September, and 34 in November, averaging 47 in 2020. The men’s joblessness rate, on the other hand, was (a record-high) 36 last July, 29 in September, and 22 in November, averaging 29. In the SWS surveys of 2019, average joblessness was 30 percent for women and 12 percent for men; so the women’s relative disadvantage was 18 points in both years (see Fourth Quarter 2020 Social Weather Survey: Adult joblessness drops to 27.3% of the labor force,” www.sws.org.ph, 2/1/21).
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