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SWS: 39% of Filipino Families Consider Themselves “Food Poor”


  •   6 min reads
SWS: 39% of Filipino Families Consider Themselves “Food Poor”
by  Social Weather Stations

The national Social Weather Survey of March 26-29, 2023 found that, based on the type of food they eat, 39% of Filipino families rated themselves as Food-Poor, 35% rated themselves as Borderline Food-Poor (by placing themselves on a horizontal line dividing Poor and Not Poor), and 26% rated themselves as Not Food-Poor [Charts 1-2, Table 1].

Compared to December 2022, the percentage of Food-Poor families rose from 34%, while Borderline Food-Poor families hardly moved from 38%, and Not Food-Poor families barely changed from 28%.

The estimated numbers of Self-Rated Food-Poor families are 10.6 million in March 2023 and 8.7 million in December 2022.

SWS has measured Self-Rated Food Poverty (SRFP) quarterly through face-to-face (F2F) surveys since 2001, except in the first three quarters of 2020 when F2F was not possible for lack of public transportation during the pandemic. SWS resumed the SRFP surveys in the 4th quarter of 2020, up to the present.

Food-Poor rises in all areas

The 5-point rise in Self-Rated Food-Poor percentage from December 2022 to March 2023 was due to increases in all areas, more significantly in the Visayas and Mindanao than in Metro Manila and Balance Luzon [Charts 3-4, Table 2].

Compared to December 2022, Self-Rated Food-Poor rose significantly in the Visayas from 38% to 45%, and in Mindanao from 45% to 52%. It rose slightly in Metro Manila from 29% to 33%, and in Balance Luzon from 28% to 31%.

On the other hand, Food Borderline fell in Metro Manila from 33% to 24%, and in the Visayas from 42% to 37%. However, it did not change in Balance Luzon at 36%, while it hardly moved in Mindanao from 41% to 40%.

At the same time, Not Food-Poor hardly moved in Balance Luzon from 36% to 33%, and in the Visayas from 20% to 18%. However, it fell in Metro Manila from 38% to 43%, and in Mindanao from 14% to 9%.

Self-Rated Food Poverty Threshold rises in all areas except in the Visayas

The national median Self-Rated Food Poverty Threshold (SRFP Threshold) rose from P7,000 in December 2022 to P8,000 in March 2023, while the national median Self-Rated Food Poverty Gap (SRFP Gap) stayed at P3,000 in the past six quarters [Chart 5, Table 3].

In Metro Manila, the median SRFP Threshold rose from P9,000 in December 2022 to P10,000 in March 2023, while the median SRFP Gap rose from P4,000 to P5,000 in March 2023 [Chart 6, Table 4].

In Balance Luzon, the median SRFP Threshold rose from P8,000 to P9,000, while the median SRFP Gap rose from P3,000 to P4,000 [Chart 7, Table 5].

In the Visayas, the median SRFP Threshold fell from P9,000 to P8,000, while the median SRFP Gap stayed at P3,000 [Chart 8, Table 6].

In Mindanao, the median SRFP Threshold rose from P5,000 to P6,000, while the median SRFP Gap rose from P2,000 to P3,000 [Chart 9, Table 7].

Survey background

The First Quarter 2023 Social Weather Survey was conducted from March 26-29, 2023, using face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults (18 years old and above) nationwide: 300 each in Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, 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, ±5.7% each for Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, 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 Food Poverty are directed to household heads, and implemented following the questions about Self-Rated Poverty. These items are non-commissioned and are included on SWS’s initiative and released as a public service.

The First Quarter 2023 Social Weather Survey report on Self-Rated Poverty was released on May 7, 2023 (“First Quarter 2023 Social Weather Survey: Filipino families Self-Rated as Poor steady at 51% since December 2022,” May 7, 2023, www.sws.org.ph).

In 2020, Self-Rated Poverty and Self-Rated Food Poverty 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 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.

Figure 1. Self-Rated Poverty Showcard

To arrive at the estimated numbers of 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 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.


Chart 1

Chart 2

Table 1

Chart 3

Chart 4

Table 2

Chart 5

Table 3

Chart 6

Table 4

Chart 7

Table 5

Chart 8

Table 6

Chart 9

Table 7


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