Short-lived inclusive growth | Inquirer Opinion
Social Climate

Short-lived inclusive growth

/ 05:05 AM November 28, 2020

The very sad thing about the economic crash of 2020 is that it halted a very rare stretch of inclusive growth, lasting fully five years, from 2015 to 2019. Inclusive growth is defined here as the situation where more Filipinos felt better off in terms of Quality of Life (called Gainers by SWS) than felt worse off in terms of QOL (called Losers) over the past year.

Having Gainers exceed Losers is rare in Philippine history. Over the entire Social Weather Stations archive of 137 national surveys, from 1983 to 2020 (as of last September), it happened in only 21 surveys, or 15 percent of the time. Yet, in the 20 quarterly SWS surveys from the start of 2015 to the end of 2019, it happened in 19 surveys, or 95 percent of the time. Only in the September 2018 survey did Losers exceed Gainers. When 2019 closed, it seemed that inclusive growth had really arrived.


But this year, in SWS’ three national surveys of May, July, and September, the Gainers were only 6, 8, and 6 percent, while the Losers were a massive 83, 79, and 82 percent, respectively (SWS Sept. 17-20, 2020 National Mobile Phone Survey, Report 14: “82% of adult Filipinos got worse off in the past 12 months,”, 11/4/20).

This is a massive turnaround from 2019, when Gainers in the four SWS quarterly surveys were 38, 36, 36, and 39 percent, and Losers were 21, 22, 25, and 21 percent, respectively. In each survey, the balances from 100 percent are those that said that their quality of life (uri ng pamumuhay) was the same as the year before.


Note that these numbers are headcounts of people, unlike the numbers that make up the Gross Domestic Product, which are counts of the money values of goods and services, and are therefore unattached to people. Since inclusivity must be measured with reference to people, the GDP and its sectors like agriculture, industry, and services can say nothing about inclusivity.

In the last pre-pandemic SWS survey, in December 2019, the Net Gainers scores were +22 in the National Capital Region (NCR), +18 in the Balance of Luzon, +14 in Visayas, and +16 in Mindanao. Thus the inclusivity was well spread across the country.

In the SWS survey of September 2020, on the other hand, the Net Gainers scores were -78 in NCR, -75 in Balance Luzon, -80 in Visayas, and -74 in Mindanao. Therefore the present non-inclusivity is likewise spread out.

Education gives an advantage. Those with more education not only have higher levels of QOL, but also have more opportunities to improve it further, and thus add distance from those with less education.

In the pre-pandemic time of December 2019, the Net Gainers score was only +12 for both elementary dropouts and junior high school (HS) dropouts, compared to +20 for HS graduates, and +28 for college grads. In the pandemic time of September 2020, the college grads’ Net Gainers score was -64, the least bad among the four schooling levels.

Inclusive experience leads to inclusive optimism. Together with looking back 12 months ago, it is standard for the SWS surveys to ask about QOL 12 months ahead, giving rise to historical data about Optimists and Pessimists. Thus we know that optimism prevails even among Losers, though not as strong as among Gainers; it is in-between among those with steady QOL.

In pre-pandemic December 2019, Optimists were 48 percent and Pessimists were only 4 percent, for a Net Optimists score of +44 at that time. On the other hand, in May, July, and September of 2020, Optimists were 24, 26, and 32 percent, while Pessimists were 43, 36, and 30 percent, for Net Optimists of -18, -10, and +2 respectively (September 2020 survey, Report 15: “Filipinos have mixed expectations on personal quality-of-life in the next 12 months,”, 11/6/20).


Is that +2 a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel? Let us see in the next SWS survey.



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