Poverty in the Philippines

According to official government statistics, in 2021, the Philippine poverty rate rose to 18.1%,[1] or roughly 19.99 million Filipinos, after the COVID-19 pandemic hampered years of government poverty reduction efforts; this was higher than the 16.6% or 17.67 million recorded in 2018[2] but lower than the 25.2% poverty rate recorded in 2012.[3]

Share of population in extreme poverty (1981–2019)

As of 2018, the rate of decline of poverty has been slower compared with other East Asian Countries,[4] such as People's Republic of China (PRC), Thailand, Indonesia, or Vietnam. National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) deputy director general Rosemarie Edillon attributed this to a generally low and stable inflation, improved incomes and higher employment rates during the period.[5]



As of 2021, about 19.99 million Filipinos lived in poverty.[1] Through various anti-poverty programs, such as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform, Lingap Para sa Mahirap, and the Social Reform Agenda, the Philippines has been through a long battle to ameliorate that statistic. Despite these governmental efforts, the Millennium Development Goal milestone of reduction in poverty has been a slow process.[6] The poor in the Philippines are most likely self-employed farmers, fisherfolk, or other agricultural workers. Three-quarters of these people live in severe disaster-risk areas that are highly rural. In 2015, about 58 percent of poor households have more than six members. Education overall has improved over time; from the ages of 15–24, over 75 percent have completed secondary education or above in 2015.[7] Specifically in poor households, however, over 60 percent of families have education only up to elementary school.[8]

Causes of poverty

The poorest populations work in agriculture and live in areas prone to natural disasters compared to the wealthier population. There is an inadequate number of available good jobs, and a lack of investment in education that leads to such a high inequality of income. However, the government has plans focused on reducing poverty with objectives of improving the lives of the poorest segments of the population.[9]

Recurring factors have slowed the development progress. GDP per capita in relation to the increase of population is much slower. A cause of poverty in the Philippines is the rise of unmanaged population growth. Because the poor tend to have bigger families, they are unable to access health services or sex education, which leads to more children and the continuation of that cycle.[10] The pattern of growth is common in rural areas, but there has been a rise in poverty in urban areas. Cities in the Philippines have been faced with an increase in poverty due to lack of well-paid employment.[11]

A main cause of poverty in the Philippines is the vulnerability to natural disasters.[12] Natural disasters in the Philippines have caused US$23 billion in damages since 1990, which continues to delay the development process.[8] According to the DW, the Philippines is the most vulnerable country to typhoons, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in the world.[13] The frequent occurrences cost the country lives, illness, malnutrition, and denial of education and health services. Filipino farmers are some of the most vulnerable, because floods and landslides severely affect their crops and income.[14]

Comparison to other Southeast Asian countries

According to data provided by the World Bank, economic growth in the Philippines competes sufficiently with the GDP per capita percent growth of neighboring countries; the Philippine GDP per capita in 2021 was $3,548.8 compared to 3,694.0 in Vietnam, and 4,291.8 in Indonesia.[15] Declination of poverty is slower in the Philippines because urbanization and industrialization is progressing faster elsewhere. This advancement allows people to leave their agricultural-based work to a factory job with a higher paying income. The country has made movement out of the labor-intensive work in populous regions, such as Manila, however the country as a whole has made slower improvements. In addition to slow progress, natural disasters in the Philippines is one of the biggest conductors of poverty. While other countries are able to develop without consistent disturbances, the Philippines is forced to start from the ground up after every single occurrence.[8] The Economist stated that low growth of annual GDP is one of the main reasons for persistent poverty compared to Vietnam, China, and Thailand. Because the growth is concentrated in Manila, other provinces in the country are forgotten and hardly progress.[16]

Poverty rate declines

According to the World Bank, poverty rates declined from 26.6 percent in 2006 to 21.6 percent in 2015.[17] The country has attempted to increase income and opportunities and reverse impacts of occurring natural disasters. The Philippine Development Plan of 2017–2022[18] and the AmBisyon Natin 2040 are proposals for the nation to suppress poverty and improve the lives of the poorest population.[19] These policies include creating more and better jobs, improving productivity, investing in health and nutrition, managing disaster risks, protecting the vulnerable, and more. These documents help set the overall goal of reducing poverty to 13–15 percent by 2022 and having the nation thrive at similar levels as surrounding countries. The strategic plans that the Philippine government has created are intended to work towards a middle-class society where poverty is reduced and living conditions are improved.[8]

Drivers of poverty reduction

The main drivers between 2006 and 2015 were an increase in wage income and movement of employment out of agriculture, government transfers, and remittance from domestic and foreign sources according to the World Bank publication, Making Growth Work for the Poor. Movement from agricultural jobs to lower-end industry jobs led to increase of wages and accounted for 50 percent of the reduction in poverty. Due to the Pantawid Pamilya, the government was able to use the social assistance which resulted in the contribution of 25 percent reduction of poverty as well as influence behavior change. Remittances from domestic and foreign sources accounted for 12 percent of the reduction in poverty. In addition, a factor of the declination of poverty is the growth of population. With a 1.7 percent increase of population a year has resulted in a 3.8 percent increase in per capita GDP growth. An additional factor is an increase of school enrollment and decrease of dropout rates. Despite a lack of distribution, the water, sanitation and electricity of the Philippines have also improved. Other socioeconomic indicators such as social safety nets and health insurance has also been beneficial factors.[8] In addition, drivers of reduction also include the influx of economic expansion that has grown the economy.[20]

See also


  1. "Proportion of Poor Filipinos was Recorded at 18.1 Percent in 2021". Philippine Statistics Authority. August 15, 2022. Archived from the original on August 16, 2022. Retrieved November 8, 2022.
  2. Royandoyan, Ramon (August 15, 2022). "Pandemic pulls more Filipinos back to poverty in 2021". The Philippine Star. Archived from the original on August 15, 2022. Retrieved November 10, 2022.
  3. "2012 Full Year Official Poverty Statistics" (PDF). Philippine Statistics Authority. National Statistical Coordination Board. December 2013. Table 13b. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 17, 2017. Retrieved November 8, 2022.
  4. "Making growth work for the poor : a poverty assessment for the Philippines". World Bank Group. January 1, 2018. p. 26 via documents.worldbank.org.
  5. "Poverty incidence drops to 21.6%". Philippine Daily Inquirer. October 28, 2016. Archived from the original on January 20, 2018.
  6. Bayudan-Dacuycuy, Connie. "Chronic and Transient Poverty and Vulnerability to Poverty in the Philippines: Evidence Using a Simple Spells Approach". ResearchGate.
  7. "Philippines' Poverty Rate Declines; More Well-Paying Jobs and Opportunities Needed". World Bank.
  8. "Making growth work for the poor : a poverty assessment for the Philippines". The World Bank. January 1, 2018.
  9. "Philippines' Poverty Rate Declines; More Well-Paying Jobs and Opportunities Needed". World Bank. Retrieved November 22, 2019.
  10. "PSA-Makati – Poverty Statistics". nap.psa.gov.ph. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
  12. Jha, Shikha; Martinez, Arturo; Quising, Pilipinas; Ardaniel, Zemma; Wang, Limin (March 2018). "Natural Disasters, Public Spending, and Creative Destruction: A Case Study of the Philippines" (PDF). ADBI Working Paper Series. ADB South Asia Working Paper Series. Tokyo: Asian Development Bank Institute. Summary and Concluding Remarks. doi:10.22617/WPS189514-2. S2CID 169632846. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 28, 2019. Retrieved November 10, 2022.
  13. "Philippines: A country prone to natural disasters". DW News.
  14. "Philippine farmers struggle to rebuild lives after typhoon decimates crops". Reuters. September 24, 2018 via www.reuters.com.
  15. "GDP per capita (current US$) - Philippines". The World Bank. Archived from the original on August 22, 2022. Retrieved November 10, 2022.
  16. "The Philippines has the most persistent poverty in South-East Asia". The Economist. November 25, 2017.
  17. "Understanding the Philippine poverty report". The Philippine Daily Inquirer. April 14, 2019.
  18. Laforga, Beatrice M. (January 25, 2021). "Gov't hopes to achieve key development goals by 2022". BusinessWorld. Archived from the original on November 10, 2022. Retrieved November 10, 2022.
  19. "Ambitious Vision to End Poverty in the Philippines by 2040". Asian Development Bank. November 16, 2016. Archived from the original on August 4, 2019. Retrieved November 10, 2022.
  20. "Philippines Overview". World Bank. Archived from the original on October 26, 2022. Retrieved November 10, 2022.

Further reading

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