Friday, February 11, 2011

Is Overpopulation the Real Culprit for the Poverty in the Philippines? Let the statistics tell us the truth.

Are we really overpopulated compared to our neighbouring Asian countries? Is rapid population growth the main reason for our poverty as a nation? Does slow birth rate automatically translate to a nation’s progress? What are the effects of slow population growth to a country and what are its implications to its future? There had been a lot of debates on population issues and the RH Bill in the past year. The debates and talks on these issues continue until now. This has prompted me to make my own study to verify what many people are saying about the population in our country. I didn’t want to simply accept what I read from the newspapers and the internet or hear from media men and women. I wanted to see the statistics myself; so I did some research and made my own computations.

I looked up the current populations of the Philippines and its neighbouring countries like Japan and Singapore, which are among the progressive and rich countries in Asia and the world today. I got the total land area of these countries and computed for their population densities. I also checked their income per capita and their ranking worldwide. I was surprised with my findings.

I found out that the Philippines has a slightly lower population density compared to Japan. Our population density based on the projected population for 2010 is 323 per square kilometer. Population density is computed by dividing the country’s population with its total land area. Japan’s population density is 336. What shocked me the most was that Singapore’s population density (7149) is 22 times bigger than that of the Philippines considering that our land area is 422 times bigger than theirs. If we look at the figures, we could safely say that Singapore is truly overpopulated and that it’s far more crowded compared to the Philippines. But why do we feel that the Philippines is already crowded because of overpopulation? Another interesting statistic explains why. Sixty-five percent (65%) of the total population in the Philippines is in the urban areas. In fact, Metro Manila is the 11th most populated metropolitan area in the world; while if we combine the population of Metro Manila and the other cities that comprise the greater Manila area, we would be ranked fifth in the world. So, are we overpopulated? Yes, we are… in the urban areas. But why are most Filipinos in the metros? Isn’t it that there are so many informal urban dwellers (squatters) who don’t have jobs but insist on living in the cities? Why not try to earn a living in the rural areas instead of becoming unemployed? Or maybe the government should channel and invest more budget and resources on providing jobs in the rural areas so that those informal urban dwellers that don’t have the skill set and the educational background to qualify in jobs in the metros can be encouraged to move to the rural areas.

Another interesting finding that I got was when I compared the per capita income of the three countries. Per Capita Income or income per person is the numerical quotient of national income divided by population, in monetary terms. The per capita income of Singapore is $20,066.00 per person. That’s 21 times bigger than our per capita income. Japan’s per capita income is $35,474.10 per person. That’s 38 times bigger than our per capita income which is only $920.19 per person. Why is that so? If Singapore is more crowded compared to the Philippines, why do they have a higher income per capita? Why is the per capita income in Japan far from the per capita income in the Philippines when our population densities are almost the same? In spite of their high population densities, Singapore is ranked 19th in the world while Japan is ranked 3rd in the world when it comes to per capita income. These statistics clearly show that overpopulation is not a deterrent to progress and growth. Do you want to know what our ranking is when it comes to per capita income worldwide? We are 109th. Why can Singapore and Japan generate that much income while we can’t? What’s stopping us? If it’s not population, then what could it be?
The economist, Julian Simon, in his book The Ultimate Resource argued that higher population density leads to more specialization and technological innovation, which in turn lead to a higher standard of living. According to him, human beings are the ultimate resource since we possess "productive and inventive minds that help find creative solutions to man’s problems, thus leaving us better off over the long run". He also said that, "Our species is better off in just about every measurable material way." Simon further says that if you considered a list of countries ranked in order by population density, there is no correlation between population density and poverty and famine. Instead, if you considered a list of countries ranked in order by corruption within their respective governments, there is a significant correlation between government corruption and poverty and famine.

Julian Simon, therefore, contradicts Malthus’ theory that population would eventually reach a resource limit (overpopulation), and any further increase would result in a population crash, caused by famine, disease, or war. So far, this theory of Malthus is yet to be backed by statistical evidence.

What have I learned so far with my little research? I learned once more that I should not accept everything that media feeds me. I should verify things before I accept them as truth. I also learned that the poverty in our country is not really caused by overpopulation but a mixture of bad governance, inequitable distribution of resources and failure of the government to provide enough jobs especially in the rural areas. Moreover, I realized that Simon is correct that human beings are the ultimate resource and that we should invest more funds on developing our people instead of putting an end to life. If the funds that the government intends to put on free condoms, contraceptives and sex education of young children would be channeled to the right areas (like education and employment opportunities) many poor Filipinos would be better off.

In a previous research I made in preparation for a presentation to college students last year, I discovered the current population problem of First World Countries and how this impacts their future. In Europe for example, they are trying to attract more migrant workers or overseas workers especially in the medical field because there is already an imbalance in the working population and in the senior citizens that depend on the state for support. Their slow birth rate and population growth becomes a liability now instead of an asset because they are slowly moving to the point wherein they will have less and less working people in their population. Their population is growing old faster than the rate by which children are born. Let us not look far. Let’s take the case of Japan. Japan is age¬ing at a higher rate than any other nation. It is estimated that there will be three pensioners for every child below 15 years old and that one in six people will be over 80 by the end of this decade. Their population will soon be falling by nearly a million people every year and some predict that, sometime in the next century, it’s possible that the last Japanese person will die. What did they do that led to their slow birth rate? What population policies did they adapt before? Let’s look closely and study the experience of these countries before we rally behind a birth control or population control policy like the RH Bill. Surely, we don’t want to bring ourselves to the same predicament in the future.

To say that controlling our population would be the answer to our nation’s poverty is a lie. Let us not allow ourselves to be fooled by the proponents of the RH Bill who instill fear for life instead of celebrating it. Life is both a gift and a responsibility. We need to learn how to use it to harness the many good that it can bring us. It is not easy to be responsible and disciplined. That is why many choose to put the blame on other people or other issues. But if we arm ourselves with truth and wisdom that comes from above, we can give ourselves and others the experience of a beautiful and abundant life.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Potty Training, Ready, Get Set, Go!

We started potty training our little boy when he was around 18 months. He seemed ready. He knew how to say “wiwi” or “poo-poo.” He knew how to remove his diaper and short pants. He was interested to go to the bathroom often and to imitate me or his Dad when we need to go to the toilet. So, we shopped for his own potty. We were all excited for him to use it and be diaper-free soon. My husband was already computing how much we would save should our son stops wearing diapers.

We eagerly taught him how to urinate in the potty by letting him watch his Dad urinate. Then we practiced a number of times until he got excited to visit his potty often. Actually, he got so excited he would sometimes run to the potty repeatedly throughout the day. Then, something happened. Our maid left.

I ended up doing most of the household chores. I would be exhausted at the end of each day cleaning the house, cooking and taking care of the baby. The last thing on my mind was potty training. I felt at that time that I didn’t have the luxury of time to bring him to his potty many times during the day. I also dreaded the idea of having more things to clean when he would have accidents and when he poops in his potty. I felt that diapers were my best friends then; since I can just throw them in the garbage can with all the dirty wet wipes every time he soils his diaper. It went on for months until I realized that my son has already turned two years old and not yet potty trained. There was a feeling of guilt inside me but I had an excuse. We haven’t found a new maid yet. So, we conveniently used diapers even though our son keeps on telling us many times during the day that he wants to go to his potty to urinate or poop.

I realized that to successfully potty train your child, a parent should be ready as well, not just the child.

Our new maid arrived a month after our son turned two. Potty training was not on top of my list still. First, I wanted our maid to learn and get used to the daily work routine that my husband and I made for her. Second, I needed to teach her how to cook simple recipes because she doesn’t know how to cook. Now, that our maid is on her third month with us and is showing competence in cooking simple recipes and mastery of her daily work routine, potty training came to my mind once more.

I’ve read many articles from books and the internet on how to successfully potty train my child. They are all very good and helpful. I learned a lot of tips. But the most important thing I need to resume potty training our son is PATIENCE. I need to be patient in bringing him to his potty many times daily. I need to be patient and loving towards him when he makes mistakes and wets the floor, our beddings or furniture pieces. I need to patiently wait for him to finish his business in the potty and not pressure him to do it fast when he needs to poop. Patience, patience, patience. A truckload of patience. Then, I need to make a commitment to my son and to myself that I will drop everything when my son says he needs to go to the potty. Many things can distract me from honouring my commitment to help my son achieve this milestone. It can be as trivial as surfing the internet or getting in touch with friends through Facebook. It can also be serious stuff like finishing an article or preparing Power Point slides for a presentation or seminar. But I have finally arrived at the decision that whatever it is, I need to focus on my son and our goal to be free from being diaper dependent.

I have armed myself with knowledge and a lot of prayer. I have also decided to use a potty chart that will put stars every time he successfully urinates in his potty and a smiling face when he poops in it. I am excited and determined. More than being thrilled on saving a few hundred thousand pesos each month, I am energized to conquer my impatience and to grow in character as a mother. As early as now, I’m already looking forward to our diaper-free party when we’d celebrate our success on potty training. For this development is as much a milestone for me as a parent as it is for my child.