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Social Climate

The inequality of progress

Over time, some people get better off, and some others get worse off. To gauge the progress of the whole group, it is fruitless to try to measure the gains of the former and the losses of the latter. On the ground that all people are inherently equal, I think any measure, such as per capita income, that uses averaging to allow the welfare of a few to outweigh the welfare of the many, should be rejected.

It is simpler, more democratic and scientifically sound to count the gainers, rather than their gains, and the losers, rather than their losses. By comparing the number of gainers and losers, one can see that there has been constant progress among the Filipino people since 2015. Most recently, the gainers were 38 percent of adults, whereas the losers were 21 percent (“First Quarter 2019 Social Weather Survey: Net Gainers remain ‘Very High’ at +17,” www.sws.org.ph, 5/24/19).

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By the same system, one will see extremely long regress from the start of survey history up to 2014, notwithstanding the regular growth of average income over the period. In 131 surveys from 1983 to 2019, 86 percent had Net Gainer scores of negative to zero. There were 6 percent at +1 to +9 (termed “High”), 6 percent at +10 to +19 (“Very High”) and 2 percent at +20 and up (“Excellent”). The scores have been consistently positive only since 2015Q1.

Sharing of progress by demographics. The national Net Gainers score of +17 in March 2019 is the aggregate of National Capital Region +20, Balance of Luzon +19, Visayas +12, and Mindanao +16, showing relatively equal sharing by area.

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Men (net +15) and women (+19) are close together, and so are age groups, except for the oldest one of 55+ years old, which is at only +2.

The starkest demographic inequalities are by education (college graduates +35, high school graduates +17, elementary graduates +17, and elementary dropouts +4) and social class (ABC +31, D +18, E +8). The more privileged have taken a disproportional share of progress.

The rich may have gotten richer; have the poor become poorer? In March 2019, poverty among families reached a new low (“First Quarter 2019 Social Weather Survey: Self-Rated Poverty falls to record-low 38%,” www.sws.org.ph, 6/18/19). This is an indicator of family well-being, whereas the Net Gainers score is an indicator of individual (adult) well-being.

Every Social Weather Survey has two interviewees, a random adult and the household head (who is sometimes the same person). The adult’s interview gives the adult’s progress, and the household head’s interview gives the poverty status of the family to which the adult belongs.

In the March 2019 survey, the self-rated poor families accounted for 31 percent of all gainer-adults, and 56 percent of all loser-adults. Taking aside the adults from poor families, 30.2 percent were gainers and 30.6 percent were losers, i.e. net zero. The poor experienced neither progress nor regress, just a continued status quo.

The March 2019 survey also found 22 percent of the household heads rating their families as Not Poor, and 40 percent rating themselves as Borderline. Among the Not Poor adult respondents, 50 percent were gainers and only 13 percent were losers, i.e. they were +37 Net Gainers.

Inequality in progress also implies inequality in subjective well-being. In the March 2019 SWS survey, 37 percent were Very Satisfied, and 11 percent were either Not Very or Not At All Satisfied with their lives on the whole (“A happiness rebound,” Opinion, 6/8/19).

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This translates to a 37 – 11 = +26 “net satisfied with life” among all adults. This indicator breaks down into +39 among gainers, +2 among losers, and +26 among those whose quality of life remained the same in the past year.

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