Filipino hesitation for divorce | Inquirer Opinion
Social Climate

Filipino hesitation for divorce

/ 09:18 PM December 28, 2012

My last piece, “The popularity of legalizing divorce,” (Inquirer, 12/22/2012) showed that national sentiments on allowing legal divorce and remarriage for spouses already separated and irreconcilable had shifted from an even division in 2005 to favoring it in 2011 by a score of 50-33.  It was not about facilitating escapes of those with troubled but nominally intact marriages, but about giving another chance for those with marriages already broken.

To how many people would this apply, more or less?  In the March 2011 survey which ran the item, about 1.5 percent of adults were living as single due to separation.  On a base of over 55 million adults, that amounts to over 800,000 persons.  They were 67 percent in favor of legalizing divorce, and 13 percent against it.


Another 0.5 percent were living-in with a partner without marriage, after having previously been separated.  These number over 250,000 persons.  Their score on legalizing divorce was 69 percent in favor and none against.

Though the percentage separated is small, their absolute number amounts to over a million persons.  It is natural that they are highly in favor of legalizing divorce.


However, the fact that opinions have generally tilted in favor of legalizing divorce does not imply that Filipinos unhappily married but still living together would rush into divorce once it is available.

In fact, compared to other nationalities, Filipinos are the most hesitant to consider divorce as a means of escaping marital problems.

I base this on cross-country surveys of agree/disagree responses to the following statement: “Divorce is usually the best solution when a couple can’t seem to work out their marriage problems” (“Ang diborsyo ang karaniwang pinakamahusay na solusyon kung hindi maayos ng mag-asawa ang kanilang problema sa pagsasama”).

This is an item in surveys of the International Social Survey Programme ( on “Family and Gender Roles,” done in 1994, 2002 and 2012.  Note that it refers to a general inability to solve marital problems, of couples not, or not yet, separated.

The ISSP member for the Philippines is Social Weather Stations, which does the ISSP surveys pro bono.  SWS found 38 percent agreement, versus 49 percent disagreement, in 1994, and 36 percent agreement, versus 50 percent disagreement, in 2002, that “divorce is usually the best solution” for a couple in great difficulties with marriage. Thus disagreement was dominant in both years. The 2012 round was fielded in November, and is being processed.  I will use the past tense to describe the 2002 data since they will be superseded by the 2012 data soon.

Among the 24 nationalities in ISSP in 1994, the lowest gross agreement was by Japanese (35 percent), followed by Filipinos (38 percent).  The highest gross disagreement was by Filipinos (49 percent), followed by Japanese (36 percent).  The balances from 100 percent neither agree nor disagree.  Because net agreement was lower for Filipinos

(-11 = 38 – 49) than for Japanese (-1 = 35 – 36), I call Filipinos more hesitant than Japanese regarding divorce.   For other nationalities, gross agreement was at least 48 percent, and net agreements were all positive.


For the 33 nationalities surveyed in 2002, here are the gross agreement and net agreement rates (separated by a slash), arranged by net agreement:

Brazil, 86/+74; Austria, 84/+72; Spain, 81/+70; Germany/East, 80/+70; Portugal, 78/+65; Netherlands, 74/+65; Germany/West, 74/+60; Great Britain, 62/+56; Flanders, 67/+54; Cyprus, 68/+51; Latvia, 62/+51; Israel, 67/+50; Chile, 68/+49; Bulgaria, 66/+49; Slovenia, 66/+47; Northern Ireland, 64/+45; Poland, 64/+45; Czech Rep., 63/+45; Finland, 63/+45; Mexico, 63/+42; France, 60/+41; Ireland, 61/+39; Hungary, 58/+39; Norway, 56/+37; Sweden, 54/+37; Australia, 52/+32; Slovak Rep., 55/+30; New Zealand, 52/+28; Russia, 54/+25; United States, 43/+6; Taiwan, 44/0; Japan, 35/-1, and the Philippines, 36/-14.

In all but four countries, those saying divorce is “usually the best solution” were absolute majorities.  I would not call such peoples “hesitant” about divorce.

Note the following: 1. Catholic and non-Catholic nationalities favored divorce in more or less equal measure.  Spaniards (94 percent Catholic, per Wikipedia) were third from the top, at gross 81 percent.  The Irish (84 percent Catholic) were at gross 61 percent, even though divorce became legal only in 1996, six years previously.

2. Americans had only a slight plurality, with a margin of 6 points, favoring divorce as the solution for un-resolvable marital problems.  Americans were actually closer to Taiwanese and Japanese, who have very evenly split opinions, than to the other Western nationalities.

3. Those most hesitant to resort to divorce as a solution to marital problems were Taiwanese, Japanese, and, above all, Filipinos, the three Asian groups of the ISSP network at that time.

4. Only among Filipinos did the national balance of opinion clearly tilt against divorce.  Incidentally, the balances were positive in the National Capital Region (net +4) and in the middle-to-upper ABC classes (net +5), but negative in other areas and classes.

Going by the ISSP data, for countries of varied religions, it seems to me that the reasons for Filipino hesitation to divorce are not to be found in religion.

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Happy New Year to All!

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Contact SWS: or [email protected]

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