FILIPINOS ARE, by nature, optimistic. This was again validated by the results of a Social Weather Stations survey showing four out of every five Filipinos were confident that the Philippines could join the ranks of “developed” countries.
What was worrying about the results of the survey was that many of the respondents had a very restricted view of what a “developed country” is, associating the term to access to affordable education and job opportunities. In fact, three out of 10 respondents replied “yes” when asked if they thought that the Philippines was already a “developed” country. While seven out of 10 opined that the country has yet to reach this status, half of the respondents believed that the country could attain it within 3-10 years.
Past SWS surveys have shown that Filipinos are always optimistic about their future, but never with the quality of their lives for the past year from the date of the survey. Take the fourth-quarter 2011 Social Weather Report, which tracks trends in personal quality of life and optimism about the economy. It showed that more than a third, or 37 percent, of adult Filipinos expected their lives to improve in the year ahead, while only 8 percent believed otherwise. The survey, conducted from Dec. 3 to 7, also showed that 30 percent of Filipinos expected that the economy “will be better” in the year ahead. However, when asked about their actual life conditions, only 22 percent thought their lives improved over the past year against the 32 percent who believed their lives worsened.
A similar survey conducted in December 2012 also found that 37 percent of Filipinos were optimistic that their quality of life would improve in the next 12 months as against 8 percent who held that it would get worse. The same survey found that 33 percent were optimistic that the economy would be better in 2013. When the respondents were asked about how their lives were during the past year, the survey again found a bigger proportion (32 percent) saying their life had worsened while 25 percent said their life had improved.
Also in a December 2013 survey, 40 percent expected their lives to improve in the year ahead. Filipinos’ outlook on the economy was very positive as 33 percent believed it would get better while 16 percent expected it to get worse. Asked about their quality of life in the past 12 months, again a high 36 percent replied that their quality of life during the previous year had worsened while 24 percent said it had improved.
Last year, more Filipinos were upbeat about the economy, based on an SWS survey in September. The results showed that 30 percent of the respondents expected the economy to perform better in the next 12 months. SWS found 39 percent saying they expected positive changes in the quality of their life in the next 12 months and only 9 percent said otherwise. Asked about the quality of their life during the past 12 months, however, 34 percent thought it had worsened and 26 percent said it had improved.
Filipinos are really very optimistic, observed Riza Mantaring, president of Sun Life Philippines, which commissioned the recent SWS survey. While the survey defined what financial freedom was, she noted that financial freedom apparently meant different things to different people. Although there was strong optimism that they could actually achieve this freedom, the catch was in financial literacy. “The problem is a lot of people don’t know how to get there,” Mantaring pointed out. The survey showed that 74 percent of the respondents expected the country’s economic development to have a positive impact on them and their families. However, to the question of what they were doing to improve their own financial situation, the top answer at 54 percent was saving money (18 percent even replied that they were “not doing anything”). Worse, only 8 percent of the respondents responded that they were investing.
Financial literacy is indeed one big factor that can help bridge the widening gap between the rich and the rest of the citizenry. Managing one’s personal finances properly will ultimately lead to investing and away from spending. For instance, families of the more than 10 million Filipinos working abroad will truly enjoy the benefits of the country’s economic growth if they know better than just to spend the billions of dollars sent to them every year on new gadgets and shopping sprees. Then they will truly feel that the quality of their life has indeed improved.
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