Social Climate

Hunger fell slightly in 2017

/ 05:10 AM January 27, 2018

In 2017, the percentage of families that suffered hunger at least once in the three months before being surveyed by SWS was 11.9 in March, 9.5 in June, 11.8 in September, and 15.9 in December, for an average of 12.3 for the whole year.

In 2016, the corresponding percentages were 13.7 in April, 15.2 in June, 10.6 in September, and 13.9 in December, averaging 13.2 for the whole year.  The change from 13.2 in 2016 to 12.3 in 2017 is the slight fall that the title of this piece refers to.


The quarterly numbers and annual averages for hunger in 2017, 2016, and earlier, are in the SWS report, “Fourth Quarter 2017 Social Weather Survey: Hunger rises to 15.9%; Moderate Hunger 12.2%, Severe Hunger 3.7%,” posted on www.sws.org.ph on 1/22/18.

As in last week’s column (“Poverty rose slightly in 2017,” 1/20/18), my point is that the movement in hunger in the last quarter (which was up) might be opposite its movement in the last year (which was down).  Hunger, like poverty, is not rigid. Two adjacent points do not make a trend.


Hunger is directly related to poverty, but the relationship is not fixed. At any point in time, there is more hunger among the poor than the nonpoor. Also, there is more hunger among the food-poor than among the generally-poor.

However, the proportion of the hungry changes over time, and sometimes it offsets the change in the proportion of the poor.  In particular, in the fourth quarter of 2017, the SWS surveys show that hunger rose even though poverty fell.

From September to December of 2017, self-rated poverty fell from 47 to 44 percent of families.  Over the same period, hunger among the poor rose from 17 to 25 percent.  Hunger also rose somewhat among the nonpoor, from 7 percent in September to 9 percent in December—of course, the nonpoor have much less hunger than the poor.  The net result was that, by December, more families were hungry, and yet fewer were poor, compared to September.

What can happen between two adjacent quarters can also happen between two adjacent years.  Looking at a year’s four quarterly surveys, we now see that, between the years 2016 and 2017, poverty rose slightly, while hunger fell slightly.

These are not contradictions. Hunger and poverty are separate aspects of economic suffering.  Yes, they are linked, but the connection is not fixed; alleviating one problem does not automatically alleviate the other.   Rapid, regular data-gathering is essential to understanding their dynamics.

It was quite sensible that eradicating the two problems of poverty and hunger were separately listed in the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals of 1990-2015, and that now they have been carried over to the UN Sustainable Development Goals of 2015-30.

The 2018 SWS Survey Review. Early each year since 2001, I have been making a public presentation of the SWS surveys of the past year.  In 2017, SWS dealt with the war on illegal drugs, the Maute/Abu Sayyaf uprising in Marawi City, the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, and various contemporary issues such as “revolutionary government,” and ran its regular indicators of the quality of life and governance.


The 2018 Survey Review, cosponsored by the Asian Institute of Management and Konrad Adenauer Foundation, will be on Monday, Jan. 29, at 9-11:30 a.m., TPIC-Bancom Room, AIM, Makati City.  It is open to the public for free, but seats are limited; seats may be reserved through Joanna Paula Titic at 02-892-4011, local 5105, or email [email protected]

Contact [email protected]

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