by Gabriel Pabico Lalu, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 15 Dec 2020
MANILA, Philippines — At least 48 percent of Filipino families feel that they are poor, results of the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey on self-rated poverty (SRP) showed on Monday.
According to the research firm, 36 percent of the respondents think their families are borderline poor, while only 16 percent said that they are not poor. The surveys were taken from November 21 to 25, or months after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic appeared in the country.
While it is a high number, the percentage of families who rated themselves as poor is not the highest under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte — the highest came last December 2019 with 54 percent.
But the 16 percent who claimed they are not poor are one of, if not the lowest, recorded under the current administration.
Compared to the December 2019 data from SWS, 24 percent labeled themselves as “not poor,” which means that the number dropped by eight percentage points. In contrast, those in the borderline poor category increased from just 23 percent — a staggering increase of 13 percentage points.
“In December 2019, the last time that SRP was implemented, there were 54% that felt Poor, 23% that felt Borderline Poor, and 23% that felt Not Poor,” SWS said.
“From December 2019 to November 2020, the borderline-poor grew by 13 points, consisting of 6-points that climbed up from below, and 7 points that fell down from above,” it added.
SWS also noted that this is the first time they did a face-to-face survey, as the self-rated poverty surveys require the showing of a flashcard where respondents plot their current status, whether to the side of “poor” and “not poor”, which is separated by a line.
Not much change in NCR
Despite being the epicenter of the pandemic in the country, self-rated poverty numbers in Metro Manila did not change drastically. People who said their families were not poor were still at 42 percent, while those who claimed they were poor went up just slightly, from 41 percent in December 2019 to 45 percent in November 2020.
The biggest changes, however, were recorded in Visayas and Mindanao: SWS figures from the Visayas showed that from 12 percent in 2019, only six percent rated themselves as “not poor” in November 2020, while the borderline poor rose from 22 percent to 35 percent.
In Mindanao, those who considered themselves not poor went from 11 percent in 2019 to just three percent in November 2020; borderline poverty also shot up from 25 percent to 43 percent in 2020.
The SWS also observed that 8.2 percent of families are “newly-poor,” or those who were not in poverty before but became poor just recently.
“The November 2020 survey asked the self-rated poor if they ever experienced being non-poor (either not poor or borderline) in the past. The total percentage of poor families consists of 8.2% who were non-poor 1-4 years ago (“Newly Poor”), 5.3% who were non-poor five or more years ago (“Usually Poor”), and 34.7% who never experienced being non-poor (“Always Poor”),” SWS said.
“Of the estimated 12.0 million Poor families in November 2020, 2.0 million were Newly Poor, 1.3 million were Usually Poor, and 8.6 million were Always Poor,” it added.
As the COVID-19 pandemic forced the government to place Luzon and other areas on a lockdown while restricting travel and closing non-essential businesses, a lot of people lost their jobs and their means of livelihood.
The government provided subsidies but a lot of people have insisted that the social amelioration program was not enough. Last August, SWS noted that unemployment rates shot to highs of 45.5 percent due to the health crisis, with an estimated 2 in 5 Filipinos losing their jobs.
The finance sector admitted that the country’s economy went into recession at the height of the pandemic, with the gross domestic product shrinking by 16.5 percent in the second quarter.
The SWS said that this survey was done — for the first time since the pandemic — through face-to-face interviews, deviating from the telephone assisted interviews before.
The research firm said that 1,500 adults were interviewed, with 600 coming from Balance Luzon and 300 each from Metro Manila, Visayas, and Mindanao. SWS maintains sampling error margins of ±2.5% for national percentages, ±4% for Balance Luzon, and ±6% for Metro Manila, the Visayas, and Mindanao.