OF WOMEN, MEN AND SEX ratios!
by Dr. Romulo A. Virola 1
Secretary General, NSCB
In celebration of Women’s Month and the International Women’s Day last March 8, we gratefully remember the heroism of many great Filipinos before us like Melchora Aquino, Gregoria de Jesus, Gabriela Silang, Trinidad Tecson and Prinsesa Purmassuri. We pay tribute to the contribution of women in nation-building and we are proud to be one of probably very few countries to have had two women presidents.
On the other side of the world, an Ivy League boss was quoted to have attributed the fact that women keep away from mathematics and science to “differences in availability of aptitude!” If he had said that in our country, I cannot imagine kng sng kngkngan cya pplutn! And deservedly so!
Being more scientific-minded than that Ivy League man, Statistically Speaking looks at interesting patterns of sex ratios and other gender statistics to assess gender differentials in some important aspects of our life. These statistics tell us stories. Hopefully, they contribute to an enhanced appreciation of the role of statistics in decision-making, so that when we speak, we make sense and our choices are always informed. But first, some facts and/or theories/hypotheses:
I have private explanations for some of the above, but let us see if Philippine demographics support them.
According to the NSO, at birth, Filipino women are expected to live longer than men: 70.1 years for women and 64.1 years for men, a good six years longer for women to enjoy the much more interesting and infinitely safer Baywalk along Roxas Boulevard. If you haven’t been there, I urge you to take your family one of these days!
Now, suppose Civil Registration records show that you are already a sixty year-old woman, no matter that you look like you are fifteen years younger, as some of our friends do, thanks to the science or art of Vicky Belo! Based on the 1995 Gender Specific Life Tables of the NSO ( the 2000 Census-based tables are not available) you are expected to live about 19 years more. Sixty-year old men, on the other hand, have only 17 years left to enjoy the magically hard power of some medicine! A simple case of who is the stronger sex? Dunno, but what maybe interestingly threatening to the Filipino male is that this gender differential on life expectancy has been widening lately. In 1995, women were expected to live only 5 years and three months longer than men, and before that in 1990, slightly less than 5 years and 3 months. But don’t you worry; unless you prefer to be awed by mechanical statistical modelers, this certainly does not mean that in a hundred years, many twenty-seven year old grooms will be spending their honeymoon with 50-year old brides!
So you thought death rate among baby girls was higher than for baby boys? Wrong! Data from the 2003 National Demographic and Health Survey of the NSO show that for every 1000 baby girls born alive, 25 will die before they reach their first birthday and 34 will not live to celebrate their 5th birthday. Among baby boys, the mortality is higher: 35 before age one and 48 before age five!
Population sex ratios (number of males per hundred females) differ among countries. Generally, the sex ratio is about 104 at birth and falls as a cohort ages. In some countries there are more men than women: Bangladesh, China, India and the Philippines. But in countries/administrative regions like Cambodia, China Hongkong, China-Macao, and Indonesia, there are more women than men. Extended periods of war/armed conflict, for obvious reasons, lead to sex ratios below a hundred, such as in Cambodia where in 1998, there were only 93 men for every 100 women. But what may be a cause for alarm, is that in some countries, age-specific sex ratios in the younger ages are far from the national sex ratio. For example, in China in 1999, while the national sex ratio stood at about 104 men for every 100 women, among infants ( 0-1 year of age) and among under-five babies, there were 119 and 120 boys, respectively, for every 100 girls. In Hongkong in 2000, while nationally, there were only 95 men for every 100 women, among infants and among under-five babies, there were 108 and 107 baby boys, respectively for every 100 girls! Similar patterns were found in Macao, and to a lesser extent, in Indonesia!
In the case of the Philippines, in the 1970 census, there were fewer men than women: 99 men for every 100 women; but in all the subsequent censuses, the sex ratio has been hovering around 101 –102 men for every 100 women. To a much lesser extent we exhibit the same pattern of higher sex ratios at younger ages: in 2000, for every 100 infant and under-five girls, there were about 106 and 105 boys, respectively. As mentioned earlier, in the Philippines, the mortality among baby boys is higher, explaining the decline in the sex ratio in the older ages.
I guess everybody notices that we see more Lolas than Lolos walking in the park with their apos. ( I hope many of us find time to experience the sheer joy of spending our golden moments with them little rascals!). Among our 70-74 year-old grannies, NSO says there are about 83 Lolos for every 100 Lolas. As time passes by, we will be losing more of our Lolos than our Lolas, so that by the time they get to be between 80-84 years of age, we will have only 69 Lolos for every 100 Lolas! So you kids out there, take good care of your Lolos! And know what, when they get to be 90-94 years old, should they all be free to marry as many as they can, each Lolo can date two Lolas! Only question is, what can he do on those dates?
What about education? Some of us think that in family decisions about who to send to school when resources are tight, the priority is less for girls because “mag-aasawa lang sila!” Let us see what gender statistics on education have to say!
In the elementary school, enrolment has always been in favor of boys: about 51 % are boys and 49% are girls. This is not surprising because among primary school-age population, the sex ratio is about 104: 52 boys for every 50 girls. The sharing has not changed much since schoolyear 1982-83 to schoolyear 2000-2001, although the share of boys has decreased a tiny bit. In high school, however, the scenario is reversed: enrolment is already in favor of girls at 51 % compared to 49% for boys, even if the sex ratio among high school-age population remains in favor of boys at about 51 to 50. Just like for the elementary level, while the sharing has not changed much, the share of boys has also been very slightly dwindling. But in higher education, the women are much more favored: in schoolyear 2001-2002, 56% of those enrolled were women and only 44% were men. This, despite the fact that among 15-19 and 15-24 age-groups, the sex ratio is practically even at 100.46 and 99.92, respectively. Is this a case of women being more interested in acquiring education? Or women being smarter than men? Guys, you must help me explain this!
And now for other gender statistics.
According to the 2003 National Nutrition Survey of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, there are more women than men who are either too thin or too fat! For every hundred women, about 14 are underweight and 6 are obese. For men, it is 11 underweight and 3 obese! I dread speculating on the reasons! But with us losing in education, it looks like in the battle of the sexes, we are winning in health, after passing the 5-year old mark! Score: One all? I am not sure. Because even if more women are either too fat or too thin, why do they live longer? Two-Zero then?
Beijing 1995, Beijing Plus Five and Beijing Plus Ten, notwithstanding, the enormous potential of Filipino women as partners in economic development remains untapped! The October 2004 Labor Force Survey of the NSO indicates that while for every 100 Filipino men, 83 are active in the labor force, only 47 out of 100 Filipinas are participating in the labor force. Four possibilities: women are lazier (not true, you chauvinist le-lechonin!); or women are still doing much of the housework ( I thought many of my friends had long been domesticated!); or many of our women have left to work overseas (possible since they are excluded from the labor force population); or the LFS is not able to accurately capture the economic status of women, especially in agriculture ( possible since respondents may think that women are not doing work when they help in the farm!). More serious however, is, despite the strong advocacy of women groups, the labor force participation of women has gone down from 49 in 1995 to 48 in 2000 to 47 in 2004. Among men, it was 82 in 1995, 80 in 2000 and 83 in 2004.
The October 2002 NSO Survey of Overseas Filipino Workers estimated 502,000 women and 554,000 men working overseas. With close to 48 % share of overseas employment, when this is added to employment in the domestic economy, the overall labor force participation rate of women should be higher. This, in fact, is a possible explanation for the dwindling labor force participation rate in the domestic economy among women! The same NSO survey shows that it is the younger Filipino women who work overseas ( modal age group is 25-29) compared to men, who are mostly 45 years of age or over. Most of our women OFWs go to Hongkong, while Saudi Arabia is still the most favored destination among men OFWs. But even if our OFWs contribute about 10% to our GNP, I do not like this OFW trend as it is the women who generally are able to provide better direction in our family lives. They are leaving for financial gains but sacrificing the future of their children in other, possibly more important aspects, particularly education. The DepEd tells us that in the High School Readiness Test administered to our first year high school students, average scores of our children range from 32 to 38% in English, Science and Math! As Mareng Winnie would say, susmaryosep! Where does our future lie?
PARIS 21 ( Partnership in Statistics for Development in the 21 st Century has just come up with an interesting document “ Measuring up to the Measurement Problem: The Role of Statistics in Evidence-based Policy-Making.” If you wish to benefit from the true and immense power of statistics, read it. It is available on the PARIS 21 website at http://www.paris21.org.
Happy Women’s Month!
Reactions and views are welcome thru email to the author at email@example.com
1 Secretary General of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) and Chairman of the Statistical Research and Training Center (SRTC). He holds a Ph. D. in Statistics from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, USA and has taught mathematics and statistics at the University of the Philippines. He is also a past president of the Philippine Statistical Association.
Posted 14 March 2005.