Social Climate

‘Mahirap,’ ‘pobre,’ ‘imol’

/ 12:24 AM September 17, 2016

In SWS surveys of Self-Rated Poverty, the household head is shown a card with Poor written above a line, and Not Poor written below the line, and then asked to situate the family on the card.  (To eliminate visual bias, half of the respondents are shown a card with Poor below the line and Not Poor above the line.)  Some point to either side of the card; some point to the line.  The Self-Rated Poor are those that point to Poor.  For this particular survey item, respondents must be able to read the language of the words used.

In the Filipino version of the questionnaire, the words are Mahirap and Hindi Mahirap.  In the Cebuano version, they are Pobre and Dili Pobre.  In Hiligaynon, they are Imol and Indi Imol.  These three versions account for about three-fourths of the respondents of a standard national sample (see “Numbers on Filipino, Cebuano and English,” Opinion, 9/10/16).


Poor is also Pobre in Bicol and Waray.  Some other versions are Napanglaw (Iluko), Mairap (Pangasinense), Miskin (Tausug), Miskinan (Maguindanao), and Kareregenan (Maranao).

Recently, Mindanao had the highest rate of poverty. In the most recent quarterly Social Weather Survey (June 2016), Self-Rated Poverty was 45 percent of families.  This was the national average of 32 percent in the National Capital Region (NCR), 41 percent in the Balance of Luzon, 52 percent in the Visayas, and 54 percent in Mindanao.  These were obtained by applying the questionnaire-version most appropriate to the area sampled.


For the poverty proportion to be least in the NCR, followed by the Balance of Luzon, is typical.  Yet the highest poverty is not always in Mindanao; very often it is in the Visayas.  All four areas have experienced a general decline in poverty, compared to the past (see “Favorable poverty news again,” Opinion, 8/6/16).

However, Mindanao recently suffered the least from hunger. On the other hand, the proportion of families experiencing involuntary (i.e., due to lack of food) hunger at least once in the past three months was only 13.3 percent in Mindanao, from the same June 2016 survey.  This was two points below the 15.3 percent in the Balance of Luzon and the 15.7 percent in the Balance of Luzon, and close to four points below the 17.0 percent in the NCR.

The national average hunger rate was 15.2 percent.  (See “Second Quarter 2016 Social Weather Survey: Hunger is 15.2% of families; Moderate Hunger 13.2%, Severe Hunger 2.0%,” www.sws.org.ph, 8/15/16.  Gutom is the survey’s word for hunger in Filipino, as well as in Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Bicol and Waray.  It is Bisin in Iluko, Hyapdi in Tausug, Gutem in Maguindanao, and Kaor in Maranao.)

It is neither uncommon nor inconsistent for the NCR to suffer the highest hunger rate, and at the same time the lowest poverty rate, among the four survey areas.  This will happen if the proportion of the hungry among the poor is much higher in the NCR than in the other areas.

Recently, Mindanao also had the lowest rate of joblessness.  In June 2016, the proportion of adults without a job, and at the same time looking for a job, was only 18.9 percent of the labor force in Mindanao, compared to 19.8 percent in the Visayas, 22.6 percent in the Balance of Luzon, and 26.2 percent in the NCR.   (The labor force excludes those not looking for a job, like housewives, students, and the retired or disabled.)

It is not uncommon for the NCR to have the highest rate of joblessness among the four survey areas. (See “Second Quarter 2016 Social Weather Survey: Adult joblessness at 21.7%; 6.7% lost their jobs involuntarily, 10.3% resigned,” www.sws.org.ph, 9/13/16.)

Recently, Mindanao also had the highest rate of satisfaction with life. In June 2016, the proportion of adults either Very or Fairly Satisfied with Life was 88 percent in Mindanao, compared to 87 percent in the Balance of Luzon, 86 percent in the NCR, and 80 percent in the Visayas.  The national average was 86 percent. These averages are generally higher than they were a decade ago.


The life-satisfaction question, in Filipino, is: “Sa kabuuan, kayo ba ay lubos na nasisiyahan, medyo nasisiyahan, hindi nasisiyahan o lubos na hindi nasisiyahan sa buhay na inyong nararanasan?”  The first two answers of this four-answer item are the Very and the Fairly Satisfied.

Cebuano: “Sa kinatibuk-an, kamo ba kontento gayud, medyo kontento, dili kontento o dili gayud kontento sa kinabuhi nga inyong naagian?” Hiligaynon: “Sa kabilugan, kamo bala ay kontento gid, medyo kontento, indi kontento o indi gid kontento sa kabuhi na inyo naeksperyensahan?” Bicol: “Sa kabilugan, kamo po ba ay talagang nakokontento, medyo nakokontento, dai nakokontento, talagang dai nokokontento sa buhay na saindong naeeksperyensya?” Iluko: “Iti kabuklan, dakayo kadi ket talaga a mapmapnek, medyo mapmapnek, saan a mapmapnek wenno talaga a saan a mapmapnek iti biag a mapadpadasan yo ita?”

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This piece points out that national surveying necessitates the use of several languages, corresponding to the great language diversity of the Philippines.  The SWS surveys have discovered, and quantified, significant differences in some key aspects of the quality of life across major geographic areas of the Philippines.

The most recent survey shows that, despite its long concentration of political power, so-called “Imperial Manila” is not topmost in some basic conditions of wellbeing. Even before the Duterte administration began, the top area in terms of freedom from hunger, holding a job, and feeling satisfied with life, was already Mindanao.

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TAGS: Poverty, self-rated poverty, Social Weather Stations, surveys
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