“The number of Filipinos in poverty has now risen to over 26 million, just under 25 percent of the population”
The COVID-19 pandemic of the past 27 months has affected not only the health situation in the country in terms of lives lost and the healthcare system stretched to its limits.
It has also adversely affected the entire economy—from job losses to higher prices of consumer goods and limited mobility due to lack of adequate transportation services.
Yet another adverse impact of the pandemic on the economic front is the big setback in reducing poverty incidence in the country.
According to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the goal of eradicating both subsistence and income poverty may not be achieved due to the pandemic’s impact on the economy.
Prior to March 2020, the start of the pandemic, the government had targeted to eradicate subsistence poverty by 2030 and bring down income poverty to zero by 2040.
Subsistence poverty is the proportion of the population who could not even provide for their basic food needs, while the income poverty rate includes those who could not provide for their basic food and non-food needs.
In fact, the pandemic has set back the country’s at least two years worth of gains in poverty reduction.
This is unfortunate, as NEDA concedes, because if COVID-19 had not happened, we would have been able to bring down the subsistence poverty rate to zero since we already hit single digit in 2018.
Based on the World Bank’s latest report, poverty incidence is also expected to increase in light of the increase in commodity prices this year.
The WB believes that recent food and fuel price increases, in part due to the prolonged Russian invasion of Ukraine, could threaten expected progress in poverty reduction in 2022, as poor households tend to spend substantial shares of their incomes on food and energy.
The latest official data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed poverty incidence increased to 23.7 percent in the first semester of 2021 from the 21.1 percent in the first semester of 2018.
This translates to 26.14 million Filipinos who lived below the poverty threshold—estimated at P12,082, on the average, for a family of five per month—in the first semester of 2021.
The number of Filipinos in poverty has now risen to over 26 million, just under 25 percent of the population.
The prevailing poverty situation is underscored by the results of the latest survey of the Social Weather Stations from April 9 to 27 that a total of 12.2 percent of Filipino families, or an estimated 3.1 million individuals, experienced hunger in the first quarter of 2022.
The SWS reported that of the 12.2 percent of families, 9.3 percent or around 2.4 million families experienced “moderate hunger,” while 2.9 percent or 744,000 families experienced “severe hunger.”
For its part, the Commission on Population and Development is hoping that as part of the country’s war against poverty, the incoming administration should provide a “living wage” to workers.
The agency defines a “living wage” as the amount that addresses the cost of daily living.
While the government has adjusted the minimum wage in Metro Manila from the previous P537 per day last year to P570 per day since last month, the amount is deemed too measly to allow a typical family of five to keep their heads above water.
We expect the incoming administration to ramp up efforts to reduce the ranks of the poor by creating more jobs and giving workers decent wages.
Economic growth should be aimed at giving the poor and disadvantaged sectors the means to stand on their own two feet.