The National Economic and Development Authority said Friday poverty incidence in the country further dropped to 16.6 percent of the population in 2018 from 23.3 percent in 2015 due largely to the improved labor market conditions that increased the salaries and wages of the poor.
NEDA Undersecretary and officer in charge Adoracion Navarro said the latest numbers showed that the government was “on track in meeting our targets set under the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022.”
“We are pleased that the official poverty statistics for the full-year of 2018 reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority show significant progress, not just in terms of increasing overall income but also reducing inequality as well,” Navarro said.
“With a poverty reduction rate of 2.23 percentage points per annum, we are not only on track to meet our PDP target of bringing down poverty incidence to 14 percent by 2022. We are also likely to meet the Sustainable Development Goal or SDG target of eradicating extreme poverty as defined by the international poverty line and cutting by half the proportion of the population living below the national poverty line by 2030,” Navarro said.
Navarro said the target of lifting 6 million Filipinos out of poverty by 2022 was almost reached, as 5.9 million have already been lifted out of poverty as of 2018.
“These demonstrate that the strategies elaborated in the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 do result in inclusive growth. These need to be sustained, if not further enhanced,” she said.
Navarro said with a vibrant economy that continued to generate good jobs, the mean salaries and wages for the population rose 22.8 percent to P156,114 in 2018, from P127,122 in 2015.
For those in the bottom 30 percent of the population, mean per capita income increased 31.87 percent. This outpaced the 18-percent income growth experienced by the top 20 percent of households. Navarro said this was a good sign that the government’s programs targeting the poor were working well.
The NEDA said the sustained implementation, expansion and enhancement of the government’s social assistance programs (i.e., Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino, Unconditional Cash Transfer, Pantawid Pasada, and Social Pension) provided additional income to the poorest sectors of the society.
Transfers received by households from the bottom three deciles increased 34.8, 32.8, and 25.0 percent respectively.
The full implementation of the social pension program also augmented the incomes of poor households, especially the first income decile. Families from the first income decile experienced a 52.6-percent increase in their pension and retirement benefits from 2015 to 2018, compared to the national average of -5.7.
Meanwhile, poverty gap—or the ratio by which the average income of the poor falls below the poverty line—as well as the severity of poverty also consistently improved in 2018 from 2015. Specifically, poverty gap decreased to 2.6 percent from 4.5 percent, while the severity of poverty dropped to 0.9 percent from 1.7 percent. These indicators signify that incomes of the poor are also increasing.
“I would also like to highlight that the broad-based decline in poverty incidence has eased disparities across regions. All regions recorded a decline in poverty incidence among families, except for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. From 2015 to 2018, the largest drop in poverty incidence was recorded in Region X and Region VII,” Navarro said.
Notable improvements in poverty incidence and mean per capita income across regions were also reflected in other measures of poverty, validating improvements in lagging areas and those who are below the poverty line.
“Moving forward, we need to sustain, if not further enhance, the strategies already indicated in the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022, noting that our vision is to end poverty by 2040. Given this, the government needs to be consistent in its robust poverty reduction efforts, especially in accelerating human capital development and expanding economic opportunities to hasten reduction in poverty and inequality across all regions in the country,” she said.
NEDA Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon said the quality of education in the country must also be improved to significantly help reduce poverty in the long run.
“We have to produce knowledge products from the Philippines. The corrections have to be done as early as now,” Edillon said.
On Thursday, NEDA said employment rate in the country rose to 95.5 percent in October 2019 from 94.9 percent a year ago, the highest in all previous October rounds of Labor Force Survey of the Philippine Statistics Authority since 2009.
Notably, the unemployment rate dropped further to 4.5 percent or 153,000 less unemployed persons, from last year’s 5.1 percent. This is the lowest overall unemployment rate for all October survey rounds in the last 10 years.
NEDA said all major sectors—agriculture, industry and services—posted employment gains reaching a total net employment generation of 1.8 million.
Underemployment rate—the proportion of those already employed but still wanting more work—decreased to 13.0 percent from 13.3 percent in October 2018.
Labor force participation rate improved to 61.5 percent, which was mainly accounted for by the increase in participation rate among women, after four years of decline.