Poverty statistics at multi-year lows

May 27, 2016 at 13:25

Poverty statistics at multi-year lows

Posted on May 26, 2016 11:02:00 PM

RESEARCHERS now estimate some 10.5 million Filipino families consider themselves poor — their numbers shrinking from last year’s tally — while an even fewer 6.9 million reported they barely have enough food to put on their tables.

Results of the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey — conducted between March 30 and April 2 — put both self-rated poverty and food poverty rates at multi-year lows, prompting Malacañang to challenge the incoming Duterte presidency to sustain gains made by the Aquino government.

The SWS survey showed 46% of those polled (equivalent to 10.5 million families) rated themselves “mahirap” or poor. The results are better than those of a similar survey done in December 2015, which put the estimate at 11.2 million families, or 50% of respondents.

SWS, which polled 1,500 adults for this round, said its survey has sampling error margins of ±3 points for national percentages and ±6 points each for Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.

At 46%, the latest self-rated poverty rate was the lowest in over four years or since December 2011’s 45%, reflecting drops across all regions except in Mindanao.

“The 4-point decline in self-rated poverty rate nationwide in the first quarter of 2016 was due to decline in the Visayas, Metro Manila and Balance Luzon, combined with a 2-point rise in Mindanao,” SWS explained.

Self-rated poverty fell by 14 points in the Visayas to 57% in April, nine points below its 2015 average of 66%, and the lowest since June 2013.

It also declined by seven points in Metro Manila to 30% from 37%, which is three points below the 2015 Metro Manila average of 33%, and the lowest in 12 years, since the 30% seen in March 2004.

SWS added that self-rated poverty was also down in Balance Luzon by two points to 44% last month from 46% in December. That is a point above the 43% average for the area in 2015.

Meanwhile, self-rated poverty rose by two points in Mindanao to 53% in April, from 51% in December. That’s down by 10 points compared to the full-year average of 63% for the region.

The survey also found that 31% or an estimated 6.9 million families consider the type of food they eat as “food-poor,” two points below the 33% or 7.4 million logged in December last year.

That rate matches the record-low 31% first recorded in March 2010.

In explaining the April dip, the SWS said Visayas and Mindanao regions reported declines in self-rated food poverty rates. The pollster reported a steady score in Metro Manila and a three-point rise in Balance Luzon.

Self-rated food poverty fell by 17 points in the Visayas to 33% in April from 50% in December.

It fell by four points in Mindanao to 37% last month from December’s 41% and is 14 points below the 2015 Mindanao average of 51%, and the lowest rate since the 30% seen in December 2011.

But in Balance Luzon, self-rated food poverty rose by three points to 29% from 26% during the December survey, a point above the 2015 Balance Luzon average of 28%.

In Metro Manila, SWS said it “hardly changed” moving to 22% in April from the 21% recorded in December. This is similar to the 2015 average of 22% for this area.

The latest survey also found that the median self-rated poverty threshold — the lowest monthly home expense budget needed by the poorer half of poor households not to consider themselves as such — remained at P20,000 in Metro Manila, P10,000 in Balance Luzon, in the Visayas and in Mindanao.

The minimum home budget, SWS explained, is less than the minimum income that a household needs because it excludes work-related expenses, like transportation.

Median food poverty threshold — the lowest monthly food budget needed by the poorer half of “food-poor” families not to consider themselves as such — was P9,000 in Metro Manila and P5,000 in Balance Luzon, the Visayas, and in Mindanao.

The April 2016 median self-rated food poverty threshold in the Visayas and Mindanao are at the highest levels ever reached in those areas, SWS said.

Sought for comment on the SWS’ latest survey findings, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio B. Coloma, Jr. said via phone message reply: “While we are gratified that these lowest rates have been achieved, we also acknowledge that a significant number of Filipinos are still grappling with the challenges of poverty and hunger.”

“We deem it imperative that the incoming administration continue to place the highest budgetary priority to poverty alleviation, social protection and integrated human development.”

“Sustained pursuit of the goals of inclusive growth may be achieved if the gains from good governance and sound macroeconomic management are consolidated and brought to full fruition,” Mr. Coloma added.

However, Edmund S. Tayao, political science professor at the University of Santo Tomas, said considering the margin of error, the survey shows that the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs of the government are not really making any significant impact.

“It did not necessarily mean improved conditions … Several studies done recently against official government stat[istics], showed the poverty rating has not changed — it remained from 2010 to 2016,” Mr. Tayao said in a telephone interview.

“About 25% remain poor from 2010 up to today. It means that the increasing budget for poverty reduction — 4Ps which is increasing exponentially — is not resulting in any dent in the poverty rate,” he added.

The government’s flagship poverty alleviation program or the CCT — also called the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program — gives allowances to poor households. Beneficiaries receive a monthly stipend of up to P1,400, or P500 per mother and P300 each for up to three children. Covered households should make sure mothers avail of prenatal and other maternal care services and their children are immunized and attend 85% of their classes. — Imee Charlee C. Delavin

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