Poverty rose slightly in 2017
In 2017, the percentage of families rating themselves as mahirap (poor) was 50 in March, 44 in June, 47 in September, and 44 in December, for an average quarterly rate of 46 for the whole year.
In 2016, the corresponding percentages were 46 in April, 45 in June, 42 in September, and 44 in December, averaging 44 for the whole year. The change from 44 in 2016 to 46 in 2017 is the slight rise stated in the title of this piece.
The quarterly numbers and annual averages for 2017, 2016, and earlier points in time are all in the SWS report, “Fourth Quarter 2017 Social Weather Survey: Families Self-Rated as Poor decrease to 44%; Food-Poor families steady at 32%,” posted on www.sws.org.ph on 1/16/18.
The surveys show that poverty is not rigid, and its time-trend is not smooth. The fall in the last quarter of 2017 is nice to see, but may or may not continue, given that the big picture of 2017 has slightly higher poverty than the big picture of 2016. These big pictures jibe with the rise in annual inflation to 3+ percent, from only 1+ percent in both 2015 and 2016 (see “Alert on poverty and hunger,” 12/9/16).
The slight increase in poverty last year happened mainly in the Balance of Luzon and the Visayas. Comparing annual averages for 2016 and 2017, the Self-Rated Poor (SRP) percentage rose from 40 to 43 in Balance Luzon, from 55 to 58 in the Visayas, and from 51 to 52 in Mindanao.
On the other hand, it fell from 32 to 31 in the National Capital Region (NCR). Though never as high as elsewhere, poverty in the capital is still serious. SRP in NCR is 10 times the official NCR poverty rate—which is an incredibly low 2.7 percent of families, as of 2015. Does the Philippine Statistics Authority really believe that poverty was virtually eradicated in NCR three years ago? If it is true, why doesn’t the government brag about it?
After NCR, the Balance of Luzon has the second-lowest poverty. SRP rates in the Visayas and Mindanao are not far apart, though they have been higher in the Visayas in all the past five years.
Yet, on the whole, more people have been getting better off than worse off. The poor are only half of the economic spectrum. The really good news is that all segments of the spectrum, nonpoor and poor, are now generally gaining, whereas they had been losing for a long time (see “Gainers have led since 2015,” 12/16/17).
A week ago, SWS reported that, in its December 2017 survey, 41 percent of adult Filipinos—this indicator is about individuals rather than families—said their quality of life improved from a year before, and only 18 percent said it worsened. SWS terms net scores of at least +20 Excellent. (See “Fourth Quarter 2017 Social Weather Survey: Net Personal Optimism, Net Optimism about Economy and Net Gainers are ‘Excellent,’” 1/8/18.)
By area, the highest spread of gainers over losers is in NCR (+30), followed by Mindanao (+29), Balance Luzon (+22), and the Visayas (+11, called Very High). Positive net gaining happened as early as three years ago in Balance Luzon (December 2014). Then it started in NCR (March 2015), in the Visayas (April 2016), and in Mindanao (June 2016).
For adults from nonpoor families, 45 percent were gainers and 16 percent were losers, over the past year, for an Excellent net +29 spread. For those from the self-rated poor, on the other hand, 34 percent were gainers, and 24 percent were losers, for a Very High net +10. This means the poor are having a lower, but still positive, share in progress.
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