By Leslie Ann Aquino
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on Wednesday urged employers to ensure that all family planning services are made available to their employees.
“Let me urge the private sector companies gathered here, and those reached through our media networks, to join us in this very timely and meaningful initiative of giving women and girls, as well as men and boys, the opportunity to make their lives better through family planning and reproductive health,” UNFPA Country Representative Klaus Beck said in his speech during the National Conference on Productivity and Family Planning held in Makati.
He cited a number of companies, such as Hamlin Industrial Corporation, that have made sound decisions to expand access to quality family planning information and services to their workers following the principles of informed choice and voluntarism, realizing that such programs are not only good for the employees, but are also beneficial to the companies and the nation as well.
“Studies have shown the economic benefits that family planning gives to the companies, but more important is the impact that this program brings to employees by way of better health, better quality family life, and improved productivity,” said Beck.
He said a good quality family planning program enables employees to improve the quality of their lives by being able to plan their families and their future, while also giving the companies economic and business incentives.
Beck added that investing in family planning is investing in the workers, in the company and in the country’s economy as a whole.
“Investing in family planning, therefore, is not only common sense but makes good business sense,” he said.
But designing a workplace family planning program, Beck said is not a straightforward task as each workplace environment is unique and requires tailor-made strategies for information and service delivery.
“Our experience shows that even between companies in the same sector, there are differences so programs have to be customized to align with the business set-up. It is important, therefore, that company management is directly in control of the planning process from the very start of the engagement. After all, these programs are their programs and they have to implement them in a way that they do not disrupt production,” he said.
Since working couples are faced with the challenge of a lack of time to access quality family planning and reproductive health services, especially in the public health centers that provides these services only during working hours, Beck said a workplace program ensures that these services are available where the employees are, and that they are closely supported by their co-employees on a regular basis.
He cited the case of Mae, a garments factory worker of Hamlin in Laguna, who after giving birth decided to start using contraceptive pills, which she received for free – from her workplace, so as to plan the timing and size of her family.
Beck said Mae is one of many employees at Hamlin, 76% of whom are women, who have decided to take control of their futures through family planning.
“Her decision is good for her, and also good for business. High employee turnover and significant absences due to unplanned pregnancies affect Hamlin’s business,” he said.
Family planning, Beck said is also one of the most effective ways to stop the cycle of poverty for families and communities in developing countries.
“In the Philippines, some, 4.5 million women and girls who do not want to get pregnant are not using safe and effective family planning methods due to lack of access or lack of information,” he said.
“Reducing unmet need for family planning is the first step towards the country reaching the demographic dividend. A UNFPA-funded study shows that by not fully implementing the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law, the Philippines might entirely miss reaping the full benefits of the demographic dividend,” added Beck.
The Commission on Population (POPCOM) said a large number of the local jobs workforce continue to have no access to family planning services.
“Based on our count, women of reproductive age, who are in the workforce, is about 10 million. So, if we presume that the working population has the same unmet need rate, there are about 3 million of them in the workforce that are in need of family planning services,” POPCOM Executive Director Dr. Juan Antonio Perez III said in an interview.
“There are young women aged 15 to 19 years, who drop out of school because they have to go to work,” he added.
Launched in 2014, the UNFPAs Business Action for Family Planning Access (BAFP) project encourages private sector engagement in family planning either in the workplace, community based or as a core business.
The project has been able to reach almost 1.4million individuals through family planning sessions in the workplace and in communities.
Since June 2015, UNFPA has mentored Hamlin’s program managers and family planning trainers, and facilitated the adoption of the programme’s policies. UNFPA also supplies some of the program’s contraceptives. Participation in the program is voluntary.
According to the 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey, 49 percent of unmarried, sexually active women and 17% of married women in the Philippines, have an unmet need for family planning.
UNFPA is the United Nations reproductive health and rights agency.