Some 2.3 million more Filipinos were pushed into poverty from 2018 to 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said Monday.
By the end of 2021, the poor made up 18.1 percent of the population, up from 16.7 percent in 2018, based on the preliminary results of the Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) 2021.
Poverty incidence among the population is defined as the proportion of Filipinos whose per capita income cannot sufficiently meet their individual basic food and non-food needs.
“This translates to around 19.99 million Filipinos who lived below the poverty threshold of about P12,030 per month for a family of five,” the PSA said.
The subsistence incidence, defined as the proportion of Filipinos whose income is not enough to meet even just the basic food needs, slightly increased to 5.9 percent in 2021 from 5.2 percent in 2018. It was estimated that a family of five needs at least P8,379 per month to meet their basic food requirements.
Among families, around 3.5 million families, or 13.2 percent were considered poor in 2021. On the other hand, the subsistence incidence among families was observed at 3.9 percent, which is equivalent to 1.04 million poor families living below the food poverty line.
Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the latest data meant that the country’s poverty incidence fell short of its 2021 target of 15.5 to 17.5 percent as indicated in the Updated Philippine Development Plan for 2017 to 2022.
“The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including income and employment losses, caused the poverty incidence to rise. Restrictions on mobility and low earning capacity of poor households due to limited access to regular and productive jobs made the lives of Filipinos difficult,” Balisacan said.
In 2018, Balisacan said the government achieved its goal of lifting 6 million Filipinos out of poverty, four years ahead of the 2022 target. The national poverty rate declined from 23.5 percent in 2015 to 16.7 percent in 2018.
He said prudent macroeconomic management and the enactment of various reforms that increased real income opportunities for Filipinos made this possible.
“As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted our growth momentum and development trajectory,” he said.
But he said the government, seeing a tough road ahead, is already prepared to face the challenges head-on. The overall goal of the next Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028 is to reinvigorate job creation and poverty reduction.
“Our poverty reduction efforts will focus on three main areas: full reopening of the economy, more investments in human capital, social development, and social protection, and transformation of the production sectors to generate more and quality jobs and competitive products,” he said.
He said there is a need to fully reopen the economy to steer the country back on the high-growth path. As indicated by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. during his first State-of-the-Nation Address, there will be no more lockdowns in the months ahead.
“We will support this policy with an aggressive campaign on vaccination and boosters and adopt science-based minimum public health standards. We will continue to improve our health system’s capacity to respond to the threats of COVID-19, as well as other health threats…,” he said.
He said more investments in human capital and social development, and social protection are needed.
Reacting to the PSA data, Senator Grace Poe said the results offer a clear signal that much work still needs to be done.
“Job creation is crucial, including in the agriculture sector, which will not only bring income but also bolster our food production and sufficiency,” she said.
“With the Public Service Act, we have laid the groundwork for investments that will generate employment to help stem the scarring and lingering effects of the pandemic,” she added. With Macon Ramos-Araneta