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Social Weather Report | 48% of Filipino Families Feel Poor, Up from 45% in June; 27% Feel Borderline, and 25% Feel Not Poor


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Social Weather Report | 48% of Filipino Families Feel Poor, Up from 45% in June; 27% Feel Borderline, and 25% Feel Not Poor
by  Social Weather Stations
  • 34% feel Food-Poor, 35% feel Food Borderline, and 31% feel Not Food-Poor

The national Social Weather Survey of September 28-October 1, 2023, found 48% of Filipino families rating themselves as Mahirap or Poor, 27% rating themselves as Borderline (by placing themselves on a horizontal line dividing Poor and Not Poor), and 25% rated themselves as Hindi Mahirap or Not Poor.

Compared to June 2023, the percentage of Poor families rose by 3 points from 45%, while Borderline families fell by 6 points from 33%, and Not Poor families rose by 3 points from 22% [Charts 1-2, Table 1].

The estimated numbers of Self-Rated Poor families were 13.2 million in September 2023 and 12.5 million in June 2023. To arrive at the estimated numbers of Self-Rated Poor families, the percentage of respondent households rating themselves as poor was applied to the Philippine Statistics Authority medium-population projections for 2023.

SWS has measured Self-Rated Poverty (SRP) quarterly through face-to-face (F2F) surveys since 1992, except in the first three quarters of 2020 when F2F was not possible due to the lack of public transportation during the pandemic. SWS resumed the SRP surveys in the fourth quarter of 2020, up to the present.

Self-Rated Poor rises in all areas except in Balance Luzon

The 3-point rise in the nationwide Self-Rated Poor figure between June 2023 and September 2023 was due to increases in all areas, especially in Mindanao, combined with a decline in Balance Luzon (or Luzon outside Metro Manila) [Charts 3-4, Table 2].

Compared to June 2023, Self-Rated Poor rose sharply in Mindanao from 54% to 71%. It rose slightly in Metro Manila, from 35% to 38% and in the Visayas, from 57% to 59%. However, it fell in Balance Luzon from 39% to 35%.

On the other hand, Borderline rose in Metro Manila from 23% to 29% and in the Visayas from 28% to 32%. However, it fell in Balance Luzon from 38% to 25% and in Mindanao from 33% to 25%.

At the same time, Not Poor rose in Balance Luzon from 23% to 40%, while it fell in Metro Manila from 42% to 33%, in Mindanao from 13% to 4%, and in the Visayas from 15% to 8%.

34% of families feel Food-Poor, 35% feel Food Borderline, and 31% feel Not Food-Poor

On Self-Rated Food Poverty, based on the type of food eaten by their families, the September 2023 survey found 34% of families rating themselves as Food-Poor, 35% rating themselves as Food Borderline (by placing themselves on the horizontal line dividing Food-Poor and Not Food-Poor), and 31% rating themselves Not Food-Poor [Charts 5-6, Table 3].

This compares with June 2023, when 34% of families were Food-Poor, 38% were Food Borderline, and 26% were Not Food-Poor.

The estimated number of Self-Rated Food Poor families was 9.2 million in September 2023 and June 2023.

Food-Poor rises in Mindanao, declines elsewhere

The steady percentage of Self-Rated Food-Poor from June 2023 to September 2023 was due to a rise in Mindanao, combined with slight decreases in Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, and the Visayas [Charts 7-8, Table 4].

Compared to June 2023, Self-Rated Food-Poor rose in Mindanao from 40% to 51%. However, it fell slightly in Metro Manila from 32% to 29%, in Balance Luzon from 28% to 24%, and in the Visayas from 42% to 39%.

On the other hand, Food Borderline rose in the Visayas from 33% to 44% and in Metro Manila from 21% to 31%. However, it fell in Balance Luzon from 42% to 29, while it hardly changed in Mindanao from 43% to 42%.

At the same time, Not Food-Poor rose in Balance Luzon from 33% to 47%. However, it fell slightly in Metro Manila from 43% to 40%, while it hardly changed in Mindanao from 9% to 7%. It stayed at 18% in the Visayas.Self-Rated Poverty Threshold falls in Balance Luzon, steady elsewhere

In the last seven quarters, the national median Self-Rated Poverty Threshold (SRP Threshold) stayed at P15,000, while the national median Self-Rated Poverty Gap (SRP Gap) fell from P7,000 in June 2023 to P5,000 in September 2023 [Chart 9, Table 5].

In Metro Manila, the median SRP Threshold stayed at P20,000 from June 2023 to September 2023, while the median SRP Gap rose from P9,000 to P10,000 [Chart 10, Table 6].

In Balance Luzon, the median SRP Threshold fell from P15,000 to P13,500, while the median SRP Gap fell from P7,000 to P5,000 [Chart 11, Table 7].

In the Visayas, the median SRP Threshold stayed at P15,000, while the median SRP Gap stayed at P6,000 [Chart 12, Table 8].

In Mindanao, the median SRP Threshold stayed at P15,000, while the median SRP Gap fell from P7,000 to P5,000 [Chart 13, Table 9].

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.

In the past, the median SRP Gap has generally been half of the median SRP Threshold. This means that typical 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.

Self-Rated Food Poverty Threshold rises in Metro Manila and Balance Luzon, steady in the Visayas, and falls in Mindanao

The national median Self-Rated Food Poverty Threshold (SRFP Threshold) stayed at P8,000 in the past three quarters, while the national median Self-Rated Food Poverty Gap (SRFP Gap) stayed at P3,000 in the past eight quarters [Chart 14, Table 10].

In Metro Manila, the median SRFP Threshold rose from P8,500 in June 2023 to P10,000 in September 2023, while the median SRFP Gap rose from P3,000 to P5,000 [Chart 15, Table 11].

In Balance Luzon, the median SRFP Threshold rose from P7,000 to P8,000, while the median SRFP Gap stayed at P3,000 [Chart 16, Table 12].

In the Visayas, the median SRFP Threshold stayed at P8,000, while the median SRFP Gap stayed at P3,000 [Chart 17, Table 13].

In Mindanao, the median SRFP Threshold fell from P7,000 to P6,000, while the median SRFP Gap hardly changed from P3,000 to P2,750 [Chart 18, Table 14].

6.6% of families are “newly poor”

The September 2023 survey asked the Self-Rated Poor if they had ever experienced being non-poor (either not poor or borderline) in the past. The total percentage of poor families consists of 6.6% who were non-poor 1-4 years ago (“Newly Poor”), 6.1% who were non-poor five or more years ago (“Usually Poor”), and 35.3% who never experienced being non-poor (“Always Poor”) [Chart 19, Table 15].

Of the estimated 13.2 million Self-Rated Poor families in September 2023, 1.8 million were Newly Poor, 1.7 million were Usually Poor, and 9.7 million were Always Poor.

Conversely, the survey 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 18.1% who were poor 1-4 years ago (“Newly Non-Poor”), 8.9% who were poor five or more years ago (“Usually Non-Poor”), and 24.9% who never experienced being poor (“Always Non-Poor”).

Of the estimated 14.3 million Self-Rated Non-Poor families in September 2023, 5.0 million were Newly Non-Poor, 2.4 million were Usually Non-Poor, and 6.8 million were Always Non-Poor.

Survey background

The Third Quarter 2023 Social Weather Survey was conducted from September 28-October 1, 2023, using face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults (18 years old and above) nationwide: 300 each in Metro Manila, Balance Luzon (or Luzon outside Metro Manila), the Visayas, and Mindanao. Face-to-face is the standard interviewing method for Social Weather Stations; the only exceptions were early in the pandemic when movement restrictions made face-to-face impossible and mobile phone interviews were conducted. Normal face-to-face field operations resumed in November 2020. The sampling error margins are ±2.8% for national percentages, and ±5.7% each for Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao.

The area estimates were weighted by the Philippine Statistics Authority medium-population projections for 2023 to obtain the national estimates.

The SWS survey questions about Self-Rated Poverty and Self-Rated Food Poverty are directed to household heads. These items are non-commissioned and are included on SWS’s initiative and released as a public service.

In 2020, the Self-Rated Poverty and Self-Rated Food Poverty items were fielded only once because only in November 2020 was SWS able to resume face-to-face interviewing since the Covid-19 pandemic struck. Face-to-face interviewing is necessary for these questions since they require showing the respondents a card with the words MAHIRAP and HINDI MAHIRAP, separated by a LINE, written on it [Figure 1]. The three SWS Mobile Phone Surveys earlier that year implemented purely oral survey questions.

The exact phrasing of the survey questions (the source language is Filipino; English translation included) was:

For Self-Rated Poverty“Saan po ninyo ilalagay ang inyong pamilya sa kard na ito? [Where would you place your family in this card?]”

Half of the respondents are shown a card with the choices HINDI MAHIRAP (Not poor) and MAHIRAP (Poor), separated by a horizontal line (recorded as ‘Borderline), while the other half are shown a card containing the reverse order (negative showcard), to lessen response bias. 

Figure 1. Self-Rated Poverty Showcard

For Self-Rated Food Poverty“Tungkol naman sa klase ng pagkain ng pamilya ninyo, saan po ninyo ilalagay ang inyong pamilya sa kard na ito? [Based on the type of food eaten by your family, where would you place your family on this card?]” Respondents are shown a similar showcard used in Self-Rated Poverty, with the choices HINDI MAHIRAP (recorded as Not Food-Poor) and MAHIRAP (recorded as Food-Poor), separated by a horizontal line (recorded as Food Borderline). The same split-sample approach using positive and negative showcards is implemented to lessen response bias.

To arrive at the estimated numbers of Self-Rated Poor and Self-Rated Food Poor families, the percentage of respondent households rating themselves as poor was applied to the Philippine Statistics Authority medium-population projections for 2023.

For Self-Rated Poverty Threshold (SRP Threshold)“KUNG MAHIRAP: Upang hindi na masabing mahirap kayo, magkano sa palagay ninyo ang pinakamababang panggastos sa bahay sa isang buwan na kailangan ng inyong pamilya? Hindi po kasama ang mga gastusin na may kinalaman sa trabaho tulad ng pamasahe. [IF POOR: In your opinion, how much money would your family need for home expenses each month in order not to be called poor anymore? This excludes work-related expenses like transportation.]”

For Self-Rated Poverty Gap (SRP Gap)“KUNG MAHIRAP: Sinabi po ninyo na P(MENTION ANSWER) ang pinakamababang panggastos sa bahay sa isang buwan na kailangan ng inyong pamilya upang hindi na masabing mahirap kayo. Magkano pa po ba ang kulang ninyo sa ngayon? [IF POOR: You said that P(MENTION ANSWER) is the amount of money that your family would need for home expenses each month in order not to be called poor anymore. How much DO YOU LACK now?]”

The SRP Threshold is the minimum monthly budget self-rated poor families say they need for home expenses in order not to consider themselves as poor. The SRP Gap is how much self-rated poor families they lack in their minimum monthly budgets relative to their SRP Threshold.

The SRP Threshold and SRP Gap are presented in this report in terms of their medians which is the amount that addresses only the requirements of the poorer half of the poor. An increase in the proportion of the median Gap relative to the median Threshold means a worsening in families’ budget for home expenses.

For Self-Rated Food Poverty Threshold (SRFP Threshold): “KUNG MAHIRAP: Upang hindi na masabing mahirap kayo, batay sa pagkain, magkano sa palagay ninyo ang pinakamababang panggastos sa pagkain sa isang buwan na kailangan ng inyong pamilya? [IF POOR: In your opinion, how much money would your family need for food expenses each month in order not to be called poor anymore in terms of food?]”

Finally, for Self-Rated Food Poverty Gap (SRFP Gap): “KUNG MAHIRAP: Sinabi po ninyo na P(MENTION ANSWER) ang pinakamababang panggastos sa pagkain sa isang buwan na kailangan ng inyong pamilya upang hindi na masabing mahirap kayo batay sa pagkain. Magkano pa po ba ang kulang ninyo sa ngayon? [IF POOR: You said that P(MENTION ANSWER) is the amount of money that your family would need for food expenses each month in order not to be called poor anymore in terms of food. How much DO YOU LACK now?]”

The SRFP Threshold is the minimum monthly food budget the food-poor families say they need in order not to consider their type of food as poor. The SRFP Gap is how much food-poor families lack relative to their stated SRFP threshold.

The SRFP Threshold and SRFP Gap are presented in this report in terms of their medians which is the amount that addresses only the requirements of the poorer half of the food-poor. An increase in the proportion of the median Gap relative to the median Threshold means a worsening in families’ food budgets.

SWS employs its own staff for questionnaire design, sampling, fieldwork, data processing, and analysis and does not outsource any of its survey operations. This report was prepared by Leo S. Laroza. 

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Chart 1

Chart 2

Table 1

Chart 3

Chart 4

Table 2

Chart 5

Chart 6

Table 3

Chart 7

Chart 8

Table 4

Chart 9

Table 5

Chart 10

Table 6

Chart 11

Table 7

Chart 12

Table 8

Chart 13

Table 9

Chart 14

Table 10

Chart 15

Table 11

Chart 16

Table 12

Chart 17

Table 13

Chart 18

Table 14

Chart 19

Table 15


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