Surveys of economic deprivation | Inquirer Opinion
Social Climate

Surveys of economic deprivation

/ 05:06 AM February 08, 2020

Recent SWS reports on the Filipino people’s economic well-being have been: (a) “Self-Rated Poverty rises by 12 points to 5-year-high 54%,” (b) “Quarterly Hunger decreases to 8.8%,” (c) “Net Gainers up 7 points to ‘Very High’ +18,” and (d) “Adult joblessness eases to 17.5%” (, 1/23/20, 1/24/20, 1/29/20, and 2/4/20). Although these reports focus on the surveys of September and December, they include tables and charts of the full series of quarterly data from the very start, for long-term perspective. The SWS rates the economy by its impact on the deprived. Under this focus, the economy has been getting kinder to the people. Despite the 12-point spike in Self-Rated Poverty (SRP) from 42 percent in September to 54 percent in December, its 2019 average was 45 percent of families, 3 points better than the 2018 average of 48 percent.

In December, the national median self-rated threshold for monthly home expenses (not income) of the self-rated poor was P12,000. It is what half (not all) of the poor, i.e. the poorer 27 percent at that time, need for home expenses so as not to feel poor. The median self-rated monthly poverty gap, at P5,000, is what half of the poor lack to reach their threshold. Thresholds and gaps change over time. The SWS surveys show the dynamism of poverty. In December, 40 percent of families had always been poor, and 14 percent were usually/newly poor. On the other hand, 21 percent were always nonpoor, and 25 percent were usually/newly nonpoor.

Whether SRP will subside soon will depend, I think, on inflation in the cost of living, and not on GNP growth. It is vital to track poverty more frequently than only once every three years, as the government does now.

The hunger rate fell slightly (from 9.1 to 8.8 percent of families) from the third to the fourth quarter, notwithstanding the spike in poverty. Hunger among poor families fell from 14.0 to 12.8 percent; among nonpoor ones, it fell from 5.6 to 4.1 percent. This means that poverty was broader in December, but not as intense as in September.


Surveys of poverty together with hunger show: (1) that both poor and nonpoor families get hungry, though the poor always fare worse; and (2) that hunger rates move with time. Back in 2017Q4, for instance, the hungry reached 25.0 percent of the poor, and 8.9 percent of the nonpoor.

For me, the best survey news is the fact that, ever since 2013Q3, there have been, almost always, more gainers than losers in Quality of Life (QOL) over the past 12 months; the exception was 2017Q3, when Net Gainers was -2.

Opportunities for improving QOL differ by area. In 2019Q4, the national Net Gainers score of +18 consisted of +22 in Metro Manila, +18 in the Balance of Luzon, +16 in Mindanao, and only +14 in Visayas. It was +30 among the nonpoor, but only +8 among the poor.

Sadly, the chances of being a gainer are strongly biased for the educated. In 2019Q4, Net Gainers was +28 for college graduates, +26 for high school graduates, and only +12 for both elementary graduates and dropouts. Among elementary dropouts, gainers began exceeding losers only in 2016; among college graduates, it has been the case since 2010.


Joblessness of adults, at 17.5 percent in 2019Q4, was the lowest in the past two years, yet above the 15.7 percent in 2017Q4. It was lower in urban (15 percent) than rural areas (20 percent), for a change. As usual, it was much higher for women (31 percent) than men (8 percent), and highest among the youth aged 18-24 (32 percent).

Learning how these indicators relate to each other, and to other factors, calls for econometric modeling. Building the models requires time-series data.


The 2020 SWS Survey Review-Diliman Edition will be presented on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2-5 p.m., at the SWS Knowledge Center, 52 Malingap St., Quezon City. No charge; to attend, contact Malou Tabor at [email protected] or (02) 8924-4465 local 501.

Contact [email protected].

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TAGS: Economic well-being, Poverty, SWS

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