poverty in the philippines
Poverty in the Philippines has declined from 26.6 percent in 2006 to 21.6 percent in 2015. A report released by the World Bank on May 30, 2018 titled ‘Making Growth Work for the Poor: A Poverty Assessment of the Philippines’ reveals the major factors that contributed to this decrease.

Factors for Poverty Decline in Philippines

  • A rise in income and introduction of new job opportunities beyond the agricultural sector led to about two-third of decline in poverty.
  • The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, a cash transfer program of the Philippine government, enhanced the living conditions of 1.5 million people thereby reducing national poverty by 1.5 percent. The program works towards alleviating poverty by providing financial assistance to 77 percent of poor households.
  • Houses that received foreign or domestic remittances experienced significant changes in their living conditions. Around 15 million households in the Philippines receive money through domestic or foreign employment sources; this helped reduce poverty by up to 4 percent.

However, though these positive developments helped reduce poverty in the Philippines, the rate of decline has been very slow compared to East Asian countries. Between 2006 and 2015, there has only been a 0.9 percent decline in poverty as per the international poverty line ($1.90/day), while the East Asian countries — including China, Indonesia and Vietnam — have shown 2-2.5 percent in poverty reduction.

Education, Employment and Disaster Relief

Lack of education is one of the main reasons for this slow decline. Since a majority of the poor lack an education, they lack access to better employment opportunities; this trend thus keeps the majority of citizens trapped in the poverty cycle.

Many poor households also have only one earning member in the family, who is generally employed as a laborer in the agricultural sector. Such households are often the poorest and remain extremely vulnerable to the frequent changes in production rates.

Another reason for poverty in the Philippines is the deterioration of the quality of employment over the years. A report reveals that although the Philippines has experienced economic growth, it has failed to maintain consistently high standards in various sectors. In addition, poor disaster management skills have often lead to failure of timely protection and evacuation of people.

The Need for Productive Employment

The U.N. clearly highlights the link between economic growth, high-paying jobs and poverty eradication. The group states that economic growth of the country as a whole on its own will not help in reducing poverty; rather, economic growth has to be combined with an increase in the number of “productive employment” made accessible to the poor.

As mentioned in the report, “The vicious cycle of inequitable investment in human capital and lack of well-paying job opportunities traps the poor in poverty generation after generation.” What is needed then is to transform the pattern of growth to make it more inclusive, and to provide better jobs to achieve higher and more stable incomes. The vice chairman of the labor committee, Senator Juan Edgaro Angara states that “jobs remain the key to poverty. If there is enough income, a permanent and decent job, the lives of Filipinos would be surely uplifted.”

The Public Employment Service Office of Philippines (PESO) held a job expo on June 2, 2018, at which around 103 people were hired on the spot. This gathering is considered to be one of the biggest job fairs in Visayas, Philippines and this year it presented people with around 33,000 positions. Sen. Juan Angara commended the expo and said that every province, city and municipality in the Philippines has its own PESO — this prevalence should ensure that every Filipino gets a job to help them rise out of poverty.

Just days after this job expo, another job fair was organized at Rizal Park, Manila on June 12, 2018, to mark the 102nd anniversary of Philippine Independence. According to the Department of Labor and Employment, around 30,000 jobs were offered which included 45 local, 25 overseas and eight government agency positions. Generally, though, it was the transportation and domestic construction sectors that offered a majority of the vacant positions.

New Initiatives to Alleviate Poverty in the Philippines

The Philippines has around 22 million people — or around one-fifth of its population — still living below the poverty line. The launch of AmBisyon 2040 by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) is a long-term commitment to uplift the underprivileged sections of the society.

Functioning parallel to such an effort is also the Philippines Development Plan 2017-2022. Both these initiatives have set out ambitious goals to eradicate poverty in the Philippines by transforming the country into a prosperous middle-class society where “people will live long and healthy lives, be smart and innovative and will live in a high-trust society.”

To make this a reality, the government has taken up the task of reducing poverty by one percent every year to see a reduction of 13-15 percent by 2022. In addition to these two initiatives, the poverty assessment stresses the following to catalyze the rate of poverty decline:

  • Focusing on creating a greater number of high-paying jobs
  • Improving the business environment to attract more investment
  • Making means to improve productivity in all sectors, mainly agriculture
  • Ensuring skill development to make the Filipino population highly capable for the 21st century economy
  • Improving health and nutrition
  • Placing special emphasis on initiatives to reduce poverty in Mindanao
  • Making better provisions to manage disasters and protect the vulnerable sections of the society

Thus, with new initiatives and a greater focus on creating more well-paying jobs, the government hopes to reduce poverty in the Philippines and bring about a permanent change in the lives of the Filipino people.

– Shruthi Nair
Photo: Flickr