Poverty in the Philippines is more persistent than in other countries in Southeast Asia. Consisting of 7,641 islands, the Republic of the Philippines is a country located in the western Pacific Ocean. Despite a declining poverty rate in recent years, 21.6 percent of the country’s population still live below the national poverty line.
Rural areas in the Philippines show a poverty rate of 36 percent in comparison with the 13 percent of urban areas. However, urban poverty has also shown a steady increase in recent years, possibly due to the unemployed and low-income migrants who are unable to afford housing.
Other key contributors to the poverty rate include vulnerability to shocks and natural disasters, an underdeveloped agricultural sector, high population growth and moderate economic growth. Here are 10 facts about poverty in the Philippines, including the causes, outcomes and improvements.
10 Facts About Poverty in the Philippines
- Agriculture is the main source of income for rural inhabitants, primarily in farming and fishing. Most farmers and small landholders live in areas that are prone to natural disasters or conflicts. Declines in agricultural productivity, unsuccessful small landholder farming operations and unsustainable practices have caused deforestation and weakened fish stocks.
- Over a third of the rural inhabitants in the Philippines are impoverished. Indigenous people residing in these areas experience higher rates of illiteracy, unemployment and poverty. A lack of access to productive capital and limited market access has created slow economic growth and underemployment. The rural poor have limited options for off-farm employment and low access to inexpensive financial services.
- The majority of poor Filipino households have only achieved basic levels of education. At least two-thirds of poor households are headed by an individual with an elementary level education or below. Additionally, most poor families have minimal access to health and education services.
- Poverty levels in the Philippines are affected by unrestrained population growth. The average poor family in the Philippines consists of six or more members. Similar to other countries, impoverished regions typically have higher birth rates. In rural areas in the Philippines, the average woman will have 3.8 children compared to the cities where the average woman will have 2.8.
- Four out of 10 poor families in urban areas do not have decent living conditions. Most of the poor households in urban areas reside as informal settlements in slum areas of major cities like Manila. These homes do not include proper facilities and also are bad for the environment. These settlers typically move to major cities from other provinces in search of better economic opportunity and livelihood.
- Moderate economic growth has not resulted in poverty reduction. The average annual GDP increased by only 0.63 percent per person between 1980 and 2005. Incidents of inequality among regions have also continued to increase, hindering the reduction of poverty. The country’s economic growth is directed at Manila and the two bordering provinces. This prevents distant provinces from sharing the benefits of prosperity.
- The Government of the Philippines utilizes social protection programs to provide poor families with direct assistance. Impoverished families can receive cash assistance through a conditional cash transfer program. The program requires all families to enroll their children in school and vaccinate their children with government-provided immunizations.
- The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is working in the Philippines to improve the incomes and food security of rural populations. IFAD primarily focuses on women, fishers, small landholders and indigenous people residing in fragile ecosystems. Recent projects and programs are intended to improve the environment with natural resource management and sustainable access to land. Projects also include skills for managing soil and water along with support for fishing communities.
- President Rodrigo Duterte has been focused on improving poverty-related issues for the country’s poor. President Duterte signed an executive order to pass a law that makes contraception free and more easily accessible to the poor. Duterte is also improving infrastructure with new roads, bridges and airports as a result of a planned increase in expenditure. Such improvements will better connect impoverished communities to Manila and thus bring opportunities for better jobs.
- The government of the Philippines created AmBisyon 2040 and The Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 in efforts to reduce poverty. Both plans aim to improve living conditions for the poor and reduce poverty by 15 percent by 2022. To achieve this goal, it is recommended these policies work towards creating more jobs, improving productivity in all sectors and educating Filipinos with the necessary skills for work in today’s economy.
The Republic of the Philippines has made and continues to make improvements in poverty reduction. However, overpopulated urban areas and lack of economic opportunities for rural populations still create a need for more progress. The fact that such issues are receiving recognition from political leaders and various organizations is creating hope for the Philippines and its people.
– Diane Adame