Want inequality? Wreck the traditional family.

my Trade Tripper column in this weekend issue of BusinessWorld:

Amid the discussions regarding 2015’s ASEAN integration, certain data had been consistently ignored by the general academe and policy makers: Filipinos 30 years old and below comprise around 70% of the population (with those below 14 years at 35%, with the median age at 22.9 years old). Those at 65 years old comprise only about 4.1%.

Quite simply, beyond economics, the very future of this country depends on how well that 70% is educated, developed, and formed.

But even just narrowing the discussion in economic terms, to state the obvious: a lot is dependent on people. A huge portion of our output or trade has to do with services, yes, but even then, manufacturing and agriculture would need people to run them. Nevertheless, despite the demographic potential that the Philippines has compared to the ageing populations of our trading partners, all of that would be meaningless if that youth would not grow up as responsible adults.

Unfortunately, our education system needs a lot of improvement. The “Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2014-2015” show no Philippine university included.

That is compounded by the fact that of the almost three million Filipinos currently unemployed, 48.2% are within the 15-24 age group, with 29.9% from those in the 25-34 age group. Most of them are high school graduates.

All these are not contributing to the proper formation of the youth. And yet, nothing could be more devastating to them than the weakening of the traditional family institution.

But unfortunately, teenage pregnancy in this country rose by 70% in the past 10-year period (114,205 in 1999 to 195,662 in 2009). Figures for 2010 show 206,574 of such pregnancies. Data from the National Youth Commission show that the Philippines is third highest in Southeast Asia and among the highest in the ASEAN region and the only country where that number is increasing.

Also disconcertingly, 13-14% of all registered marriages are among teenagers. On the other hand, perhaps not coincidentally, there is also a rise in annulment cases (records indicate a 100% increase in the past 10 years). Add to that the increasing incidences of rape.

However, not only is economic development retarded by the diminution of the traditional family institution, economic inequality is fostered as well.

According to Jeff Jacoby in a November 2014 article, “One report, aptly titled ‘For Richer, For Poorer,’ is by sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox of the American Enterprise Institute and economist Robert I. Lerman of the Urban Institute. It documents the profound links that connect family structure and financial well-being and underscores what decades of empirical data have shown: Families headed by married couples tend to be stronger economically than those headed by unwed single parents.”

“‘Anyone concerned about family inequality, men’s declining labor-force participation, and the vitality of the American dream should worry about the nation’s retreat from marriage,’ the authors write. The steady fall in the percentage of married two-parent households -- from 78% in 1980 to 66 % in 2012 -- goes a long way toward explaining why so many ordinary families have trouble climbing beyond the lower rungs on the economic ladder. Correlation isn’t proof of causation, of course. But there is no refuting the strong association between growing up with both parents in an intact family and achieving higher levels of education, work, and income as young adults.”

“To be sure, not all families headed by married parents are stable or successful, and not all children raised by single parents struggle economically or professionally. Barack Obama, who was two years old when he was abandoned by his father, is dramatic evidence of that. But as Obama himself says, the data aren’t in question. ‘Children who grow up without a father are more likely to live in poverty. They’re more likely to drop out of school. They’re more likely to wind up in prison.’”

The message was emphasized further by Aparna Mathur: “Wilcox and Lerman document how the shift away from marriage and traditional family structures has had important consequences for family incomes, and has been correlated with rising family-income inequality and declines in men’s labor force participation rates. Using data from the Current Population Survey, the authors find that between 1980 and 2012, median family income rose 30% for married parent families, for unmarried parents, family incomes rose only 14%.”

With such scientific and researched backing, then the media’s, academe’s, and policy makers’ wholesale effort to look the other way is truly the height of irresponsibility.

Dominated as they are by left-leaning “progressive” thought, the only thing that matters to them is to further ideologically driven policy initiatives such as divorce, same-sex marriage, the Reproductive Health Law, and euthanasia. Any evidence that shows the necessity to strengthen the traditional family institution simply does not fit their narrative.