Tracking the Solo Flight of Solo Parents
In the course of our work, particularly labor and HR-related functions, we’ve come to observe an increasing number of solo parents. Of course, solo parents have always been there all along, but the enactment of a law (Republic Act No. 8972, also known as the Solo Parents’ Welfare Act of 2000) placed the spotlight on them.
There was a British study in 2002 showing that “more people are living alone, or as single parents, than in a traditional family unit.” On the other hand, a Philippine study (Globalization and Changes in Work & Employment Conditions in the Philippines, Jorge V. Sibal, Maragtas S.V. Amante and Ma. Catalina Tolentino) noted the following interesting findings:
* Among the workers, 7 percent of those who are not married indicated that they have children (solo parents, with an average of 2 children).
* Unmarried workers who support dependents constitute a significant 45.3 percent of the sample.
* There are more women solo parents than men (5.3 percent women, compared to only 1.8 percent of the men).
* The proportion of women who support dependents are even greater: 30 percent, as opposed to 15.3 percent for the men.
* The highest incidence of solo parents is in the business processing and telecommunications sectors, averaging at 16 solo parents in each enterprise, compared to the over all average of 11 solo parents.
There are criticisms against the law. Some view it as an unfair preference in favor of single parents, who are entitled to additional benefits, including a “parental leave” of 7 days every year to enable him/her to perform parental duties and responsibilities where physical presence is required (see the Primer on the Solo Parents’ Welfare Act of 2000). The critics’ argument goes like this: “Why can’t a regular parent enjoy these benefits, when they themselves are raising children and supporting their families?” The distinction, however, is understandable because solo parents don’t have the luxury of two persons taking care of the nest, so to speak.
Under the law, a “solo parent” (perhaps you’ll notice why the term “single parent” was not used) refers to any individual who falls under any of the following categories:
(1) A woman who gives birth as a result of rape and other crimes against chastity even without a final conviction of the offender, provided that the mother keeps and raises the child.
(2) Parent left solo or alone with the responsibility of parenthood due to death of spouse.
(3) Parent left solo or alone with the responsibility of parenthood while the spouse is detained or is serving sentence for a criminal conviction for at least 1 year.
(4) Parent left solo or alone with the responsibility of parenthood due to physical and/or mental incapacity of spouse as certified by a public medical practitioner.
(5) Parent left solo or alone with the responsibility of parenthood due to legal separation or de facto separation from spouse for at least 1 year, as long as he/she is entrusted with the custody of the children.
(6) Parent left solo or alone with the responsibility of parenthood due to declaration of nullity or annulment of marriage as decreed by a court or by a church as long as he/she is entrusted with the custody of the children.
(7) Parent left solo or alone with the responsibility of parenthood due to abandonment of spouse for at least 1 year.
(8) Unmarried mother/father who has preferred to keep and rear her/his child/children instead of having others care for them or give them up to a welfare institution.
(9) Any other person who solely provides parental care and support to a child or children.
(10) Any family member who assumes the responsibility of head of family as a result of the death, abandonment, disappearance or prolonged absence of the parents or solo parent.
The more important criticism is the observation of others that the law actually encourages single parents, seriously eroding the institution of marriage. The Family Code characterizes marriage as “the foundation of the family and an inviolable social institution” and it seems ironic that the declared policy behind the Solo Parents Law is “to promote the family as the foundation of the nation.” There are only some of the arguments raised and, of course, you may have a different opinion. Let’s hear what you have to say.