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Some P33 billion in potential lifetime income for teenage girls is lost due to early pregnancy, according to a new study on teen pregnancy.

The study funded by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, showed that early childbearing reduces high school completion rates and eventually decreases the predicted daily wage rate profile of women in the Philippines, underscoring the economic implications of teenage pregnancy.

Health economist and research proponent Dr. Alejandro Herrin calculated that a teenage girl who gets pregnant and does not finish high school may potentially lose earnings up to P83,000 a year when she gets paid for work at age 20. This is about 87 per cent of the potential annual income of a 20-year-old woman who completed her high school education and did not get pregnant in her teen years.

Using 2012 and 2013 data from several surveys of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Herrin predicted that pregnancy or childbirth during a girl’s teen years reduce the probability of high school completion. “There is a wide gap in the estimated daily wage rate between a girl who got pregnant early and a girl who gets to finish school,” he said.

The study shows that completing high school education increases daily wage rates of women by P300. At age 20, a girl who began childbearing before age 18 may only earn about P46 a day, compared to the P361 per day estimate for someone who completed high school and did not get pregnant early.

“When taken altogether, the potential lifetime earnings lost due to early childbearing is P33 billion, which is equal to 1.1 per cent of the Philippines’ gross domestic product in 2012,” explained Herrin at a forum on young parenthood organized by Center for Health Solutions and Innovations (CHSI).

On average, 72 per cent of women aged 18-19 years are expected to complete high school if they did not begin childbearing before age 18. The predicted completion rate for teens who began childbearing early is lower at only 65 per cent.

“These results suggest that policies on reducing early childbearing are likely to have substantial impact on the education and economic conditions of women and their families,” concluded Herrin.

“We need to realize that teen pregnancy is not just a health issue. When a girl gets pregnant, her health, education and relationships with her family and community all get entangled in a life-changing roller-coaster,” said UNFPA Country Representative Klaus Beck.

The social environment of Filipino teen

Another study by renowned demographer Dr. Corazon Raymundo cited risk behaviors and effects of teenage pregnancy on the social environment of a Filipino girl. Using data from the 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Survey (YAFSS), Raymundo presented an alarming profile of a pregnant teen.

“Smoking and the use of alcohol and drugs among teens may predict the likelihood of teen pregnancy,” said Raymundo. A girl who admitted having used drugs is six times more likely to engage in premarital sex than a girl who has not used any drugs.

Other factors that predict early sexual encounters and teenage pregnancy are living away from home, being idle or doing nothing, and having older siblings who have gotten pregnant or given birth in their teen years.

Reasonable parenting style and open communication with parents may prevent teen pregnancy. Raymundo and her research team interviewed parents and teenagers in 10 different provinces and found that both parents and their adolescents are open to talking about sex, teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

“They just don’t know how and where to start,” said Raymundo, pointing out the need to help parents communicate more effectively with their teen children.    

The Commission on Population (POPCOM) is pushing for the enactment of an Adolescent Health Act. “We are starting to gather our evidences to push for a law that will help adolescents and their parents gain better access to information and services on adolescent health and youth development,” said Dr. Juan Antonio Perez III, POPCOM executive director.

Beck said the results of these studies will greatly inform development programs for Filipino adolescents. “It should not be business-as-usual for Filipino teens, especially girls. We need to realize that what we do for Filipino teens now determines the kind of country the Philippines will be a decade later.”