SWS: 12.9 million Filipino families consider themselves poor

Self-Rated Poverty from March 2019 to December 2022 (SOCIAL WEATHER STATIONS)

Fifty-one percent of Filipino families or about 12.9 million households have rated themselves as “mahirap” or poor, according to the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey results released on Thursday, Jan. 12.

The survey, which was conducted from Dec. 10 to 14, 2022 with 1,200 respondents nationwide, found that 51 percent rated themselves as poor, 31 percent rated themselves as borderline—or placed themselves on a horizontal line dividing poor and not poor—and 19 percent rated themselves as “hindi mahirap” or “not poor.”

“Compared to October 2022, the percentage of poor families rose slightly from 49 percent, while Borderline families rose slightly from 29 percent, and not poor families fell slightly from 21 percent,” SWS said in its report.

It estimated 12.6 million poor households in October 2022.

“The two-point rise in the nationwide self-rated poor between October 2022 and December 2022 was due to an increase in Balance Luzon (or Luzon outside Metro Manila), combined with decreases in Metro Manila, the Visayas, and Mindanao,” SWS said.

It noted that compared to October 2022, self-rated poor rose in Balance Luzon from 36 percent to 49 percent, while it fell in Metro Manila from 44 percent to 32 percent, in the Visayas from 68 percent to 58 percent, and in Mindanao from 64 percent to 59 percent.

Meanwhile, borderline rose in the Visayas from 21 percent to 34 percent, in Metro Manila from 23 percent to 29 percent, and in Mindanao from 28 percent to 30 percent.

SWS said that it fell in Balance Luzon from 35 percent to 30 percent.

It also pointed out that those not poor rose in Metro Manila from 33 percent to 39 percent and in Mindanao from 8 percent to 11 percent.

However, it fell in Balance Luzon from 29 percent to 20 percent and in the Visayas from 11 percent to 9 percent.

8% of families ‘newly poor’

In the December 2022 survey, the respondents were also asked if they had ever experienced being non-poor—either not poor or borderline—in the past.

“The total percentage of poor families consists of 8.0 percent who were non-poor one to four years ago (newly poor), 5.8 percent who were non-poor five or more years ago (usually poor), and 37 percent who never experienced being non-poor (always poor),” SWS said.

“Of the estimated 12.9 million self-rated poor families in October 2022, 2 million were newly poor, 1.5 million were usually poor, and 9.4 million were always poor,” it pointed out.

Conversely, SWS asked those who were self-rated non-poor—either borderline or not poor—if they had ever experienced being poor in the past.

“The total percentage of non-poor families consists of 20.5 percent who were poor one to four years ago (newly non-poor), 8.5 percent who were poor five or more years ago (usually non-poor), and 20.2 percent who never experienced being poor (always non-poor),” it said.

Of the estimated 12.6 million self-rated non-poor families in December 2022, SWS said 5.2 million were newly non-poor, 2.2 million were usually non-poor, and 5.2 million were always non-poor.

‘Food-poor’ families unchanged since last survey

On self-rated food poverty, based on the type of food eaten by their families, the December 2022 SWS survey found 34 percent of families rating themselves as “food-poor,” 38 percent rating themselves as “food borderline” (by placing themselves on the horizontal line dividing food-poor and not food-poor), and 28 percent rating themselves “not food-poor.”

SWS pointed out that compared to October 2022, the percentages of food-poor families, food borderline families, and not food-poor families did not change.

It estimated the numbers of self-rated food poor families at 8.7 million in both December 2022 and October 2022.

Poverty threshold falls in Metro Manila, Mindanao

“In the last four quarters, the national median self-rated poverty (SRP) threshold stayed at P15,000, while the national median self-rated poverty (SRP) gap fell from P6,000 in October 2022 to P5,000 in December 2022,” SWS said.

It explained that the SRP Threshold, or the minimum monthly budget self-rated poor families say they need for home expenses in order not to consider themselves poor, has remained sluggish for several years despite considerable inflation.

“This indicates that poor families have been lowering their living standards, i.e., belt-tightening,” SWS said.

“In the past, the median SRP Gap has generally been half of the median SRP Threshold. This means that average poor families lack about half of what they need to not consider themselves poor. An increase in the proportion of the median SRP Gap relative to the median SRP Threshold means a worsening in families’ budget for home expenses,” it added.

It noted that in Metro Manila, the median SRP threshold fell from P20,000 in October 2022 to P15,000 in December 2022, while the median SRP gap fell from P9,000 to P6,000.

In Balance Luzon, the median SRP Threshold stayed at P15,000, while the median SRP Gap stayed at P5,000

In the Visayas, the median SRP Threshold also stayed at P15,000, but the median SRP Gap rose from P6,000 to P7,000.

Meanwhile, in Mindanao, the median SRP Threshold fell from P15,000 to P10,000, while the median SRP Gap fell from P7,000 to P5,000.