Grim Christmas statistics | Inquirer Opinion
Social Climate

Grim Christmas statistics

/ 04:05 AM December 26, 2020

If asked when was the grimmest Philippine Christmas in the past 80 years, my guess would be that of 1941. After the Japanese attack on Dec. 8, and hope for immediate help from the United States was gone, President Manuel L. Quezon went with his family to the tunnels of Corregidor on the evening of Dec. 24 itself (“The Good Fight,” MLQ’s autobiography). It would be Quezon’s last Christmas in his native land.

In the time of the republic, the grimmest time is right now in 2020. A new record-low 50 percent of Filipino adults said they expect the coming Christmas to be happy (masaya), in a Social Weather Stations national survey last Nov. 21-25. This is 12 points below the previous record low 62 percent, which happened first in 2005, and then in 2006 and 2013 also.


In the same survey, a new record-high 15 percent said they expect Christmas to be sad (malungkot), topping the previous high 11 percent of 2011. Another 33 percent said Christmas would be neither happy nor sad, which is also a new record high. The balance of 2 percent did not answer.

The SWS pre-Christmas surveys started in 2002, and have been annual except that 2018 got left out inadvertently. The happiest time turned out to be in the very beginning, in 2002, when 82 percent expected to be happy, 3 percent expected to be sad, and 15 percent expected to be neither.


The happy Christmas percentage slipped a bit to 77 the next year, 2003, and then fluctuated in the 60s for 10 years, until 2013. We got accustomed to seeing a solid majority looking forward to a happy Christmas. After recovering to 71 in 2014, the percentage rose steadily until, in the SWS survey of Dec. 13-16, 2019, 79 percent (the second-highest on record) said they expected a happy Christmas. By area, the percentages expecting a happy Christmas last year were 70 in the National Capital Region, 79 in Balance Luzon, 82 in Visayas, and 80 in Mindanao.

But now, in 2020, the happy percentages have dropped to 36 in NCR, 42 in Balance Luzon, 57 in Visayas, and 65 in Mindanao. It already happened a few times before that Christmas optimists fell to a minority in Metro Manila; but this is the first time it happens in Balance Luzon also. In Mindanao and Visayas, most people are still optimistic about the holidays, but their majority is less than before.

The first Christmas of the pandemic is very dreary. The impact of the pandemic on the well-being of the people has gone very far beyond the dimension of public health. Of the population of 110 million Filipinos, 461,505 (or 0.42 percent) have been infected (DOH, 12/21/20). Of those infected, 8,957 died (1.94 percent), 429,207 recovered (93.0 percent), and 23,341 (5.1 percent) are active cases.

Meanwhile, the economic hardship has exploded into many millions. In November 2020, 48 percent of all families (estimated 24.9 million) rated themselves as Poor, compared to the 45 percent average in four surveys of 2019 (“Poor, Borderline Poor, Not Poor,” Opinion, 12/19/20). Hunger managed to fall to 16.0 percent of families, from the record-high 30.7 percent in September, but was still far above the 9.3 average percent in 2019.

Comparing their present quality of life to that of 12 months ago, only 14 percent of adults (estimated 69.5 million) say it improved (they are called “Gainers”), while 62 percent say it worsened (called “Losers”). The Net Gainers score of -48 in November 2020 is extremely low, and yet not as awful as the -76 in September 2020, which we called catastrophic.

When survey respondents’ poverty status, hunger status, and gainer/loser status are ascertained, the interactions among these aspects of well-being can be seen. There are some hungry families among both the Poor and the Not Poor. The hungry proportions change over time, but are always larger among the Poor than among the Not Poor at any point in time.

If the Net Gainers score is weaker for the Poor than for the Not Poor, then the Poor will find it difficult to catch up with the Not Poor, and the inequality between them will tend to widen over time.

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TAGS: Christmas, economy, hunger, Poor, Poverty, quality of life, survey
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