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The Philippine population in 2000 was 76 504 077, making it the 13th most populous country in the world. Its population in 2005 is estimated at 85 236 913; women comprise about 50 percent of the total population. The sex ratio is such that there are 101.4 men per 100 women. In 2000, 48 percent of the population lived in urban areas compared to 37.4 percent in 1980 (NSO, 2000).

The population growth rate has improved from 2.35 percent in 1980 to a projected 2.05 percent in 2005. The fertility rate as of 2003 was 3.5 percent (NSO, 2003). The population is young: 37 percent is under 15 years of age, 60 percent is of working age (15-64 years) and three percent is 64 years or older. Life expectancy is 72.5 years for women and 67.2 years for men. The average Filipino household has grown smaller, from six members in 1970, to five in 2000. Female-headed households increased from ten percent in 1970 to 12.2 percent in 2000. Female-headed households tend to be smaller, with an average of four members (NCRFW, 2005).

Sex Ratio by Type of Area

Source: NSO, October 2000

The Philippines is an archipelago with more than 7 100 islands. Eleven large islands make up about 95 percent of the total land area; small islands and islets, some of which emerge and disappear with the ebbing and rising of the tides, comprise the remaining 5 percent. The country is divided into three major island groups: Luzon is the largest island group with an area of 141 000 sq km, followed by Mindanao covering 102 000 sq km, and the Visayas with 57 000 sq km (FAO, 2004).

The Philippine population is divided geographically and culturally into regions, and each regional group is recognisable by distinct traits and dialects. Tribal communities can be found scattered across the archipelago. The Philippines has more than 111 dialects spoken, owing to the subdivisions of these basic regional and cultural groups. Some 80 percent of the population is Roman Catholic. About 15 percent is Moslem and these people can be found mainly in Mindanao. The rest of the population subscribes mostly to smaller Christian denominations and Buddhism (

In 2004, the Philippines ranked 77th out of 173 countries in terms of human development. This translates to high life expectancy at birth, high literacy rate, and medium levels of income. Its Gender-Related Development Index (GDI) rank was 63rd out of 146 countries in the same year. Both the HDI and GDI indices indicated satisfactory performances in health and education, but not in income. Income growth lagged behind because of the country's erratic economic growth and high poverty incidence (ADB, 2004).

Over the years, the Philippine government has had limited success in bringing down poverty levels. Poverty incidence in 2000 was 28.4 percent or about 4.3 million families or 26.5 million Filipinos. This means that more than one-third of the total Philippine population lived below the poverty line (ICPD, 2004). The poverty threshold in the rural areas was $207 whereas the urban poverty threshold was $242 (NSCB, 2002). Approximately 17.7 percent of the total female-headed households were living below the poverty line; the average income of female- headed households was higher than the male-headed households. The average annual family income of female-headed households in the rural areas was $1 576 whereas male-headed households in the rural areas' average annual family income was $1 548. This could be attributed to the fact that most of the female-headed households were smaller in size than the male-headed households (NSCB, 2005).


Basic education consists of ten years of formal schooling with six years in the primary level and four years in the secondary level. Tertiary education consists of four to five years depending on the degree course. The government provides free basic education to all children of school age.

Rapid population growth led to rapid increases in the school age population, and the provision of free basic education resulted in increased school enrolment. However, lack of resources for providing basic quality education, along with pervasive poverty, have adversely affected the school attendance rates, particularly among poor households (ICPD, 2004).

In 2000, 48.6 percent of the enrollees at the primary level were females, whereas 51.4 percent of the enrollees at the secondary level were females. Data show no significant gender differences in enrolment rates up to the secondary level, but female students tend to stay longer in school and are more likely finish secondary education than their male counterparts (NCRFW, 2005).

In 2001, 95 percent of the population was literate. There were no significant differences in the literacy rates of females and males. Urban females' literacy rate was eight percent higher than the rural females' literacy rate. However, the gender gap in functional literacy between women and men in rural areas was 4.9 percent, with women having the higher rate. Female literacy rates across regions vary; it is lowest in the Administrative Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), at 59 percent (ADB, 2004).


The female labour force participation rate (LFPR) has consistently lagged behind the male LFPR in the past 10 years. Since 1995, female LFPR registered only 50 percent whereas the male LFPR was steadily above 80 percent (NCRFW, 2005/NSO, 2004).

Labour Force Participation Rate by Sex

Source: NSO, October 2004

Of the 11.5 million women of working age, 4.9 million were employed and 0.6 million were unemployed. The declining livelihood opportunities, particularly for young women, pushed many of them to migrate not only to Metro Manila and other urban centres but also overseas (CEDAW, 2005).

In 2004, about 13.5 million females were part of the country's labour force in the rural areas. More women in the rural areas are unpaid family workers. Of the total number of employed women in agriculture in 2002, unpaid family workers accounted for 51.4 percent, own-account workers accounted for 30 percent, and wage and salary earners accounted for 18.6 percent. Women wage earners received lower pay for similar work done by men (NSO, 2004).

Until the mid-1980s, agriculture absorbed half of the labour force, but its relative size shrank in succeeding decades. By 2000, only 37 percent of employed workers were in agriculture. Most of the waged agricultural workers were men, who comprised 72 percent of all workers in agriculture, hunting and forestry; and 94 percent of all workers in fishing (NSO, 2002).

Macroeconomic policies and deregulation in the agricultural sector have restricted the choices and limited the resources available to women and men. Hence, the number of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) has been increasing. During the mid-90s, almost 800 000 Filipinos were working abroad; this number increased to 1.06 million after a decade. Corre-spondingly, the number of female OFW also increased over the years. Of the total OFW in 1995, women accounted for only 47.7 percent; in 2004, women comprised 50 percent of the Filipinos who are working abroad (NSO, 2004).

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