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SOCIAL WEATHER REPORT: Hunger recovers from 11.8% to 9.8%, but still not fully back to pre-COVID-19 levels


  •   7 min reads
SOCIAL WEATHER REPORT: Hunger recovers from 11.8% to 9.8%, but still not fully back to pre-COVID-19 levels
by  Social Weather Stations
  • Moderate Hunger 8.6%, Severe Hunger 1.2%
  • Hunger falls among the Self-Rated Non-Poor, but hardly changes among the Self-Rated Poor

The national Social Weather Survey of March 26-29, 2023, found that 9.8% of Filipino families, or an estimated 2.7 million, experienced involuntary hunger – being hungry and not having anything to eat – at least once in the past three months.

The March 2023 Hunger figure was down from 11.8% (estimated 3.0 million families) in December 2022 and 11.3% (estimated 2.9 million families) in October 2022. However, it was still higher than the 8.8% (estimated 2.1 million families) in December 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic [Charts 1 and 2, Table 1].

Hunger declines in all areas, especially in Balance Luzon and the Visayas

As of March 2023, the experience of hunger was highest in Mindanao at 11.7% of families, followed by Metro Manila at 10.7%, the Visayas at 9.7%, and Balance Luzon (or Luzon outside Metro Manila) at 8.7%. It has been highest in Mindanao in 39 out of 101 surveys since July 1998 [Chart 3, Table 2].

The 2.0-point decline in Overall Hunger between December 2022 and March 2023 was due to decreases in all areas, more noticeable in Balance Luzon and the Visayas than in Metro Manila and Mindanao.

Compared to December 2022, the incidence of hunger fell by 2.6 points in Balance Luzon, from 11.3% (est. 1.3 million families) to 8.7% (est. 1.1 million families).

It fell by 2.3 points in the Visayas, from 12.0% (est. 576,000 families) to 9.7% (est. 499,000 families).

It fell by 1.0 points in Metro Manila, from 11.7% (est. 399,000 families) to 10.7% (est. 397,000 families).

It also fell by 1.0 points in Mindanao, from 12.7% (est. 738,000 families) to 11.7% (est. 721,000 families).

Moderate Hunger 8.6%, Severe Hunger 1.2%

The 9.8% Hunger rate in March 2023 was the sum of 8.6% (est. 2.3 million families) who experienced Moderate Hunger and 1.2% (est. 340,000 families) who experienced Severe Hunger.

Moderate Hunger refers to those who experienced hunger “Only Once” or “A Few Times” in the last three months. Meanwhile, Severe Hunger refers to those who experienced it “Often” or “Always” in the previous three months.

Compared to December 2022, Moderate Hunger fell from 9.5% (est. 2.4 million families), while Severe Hunger fell from 2.3% (est. 599,000 families).

In Metro Manila, Moderate Hunger hardly moved from 9.3% in December 2022 to 9.7% in March 2023, while Severe Hunger fell by 1.3 points from 2.3% to 1.0% [Chart 4, Table 3].

In Balance Luzon, Moderate Hunger fell by 1.6 points from 9.3% to 7.7%, while Severe Hunger fell by 1.0 points from 2.0% to 1.0% [Chart 5, Table 4].

In the Visayas, Moderate Hunger fell by 1.0 points from 10.0% to 9.0%, while Severe Hunger fell by 1.3 points from 2.0% to 0.7% [Chart 6, Table 5].

In Mindanao, Moderate Hunger stayed at 9.3% from December 2022 to March 2023, while Severe Hunger fell by 1.0 points from 3.3% to 2.3% [Chart 7, Table 6].

Hunger falls among the Self-Rated Non-Poor, but hardly changes among the Self-Rated Poor

The March 2023 survey found 51% of Filipino families rating themselves as Mahirap or Poor, 30% rating themselves as Borderline (by placing themselves on a horizontal line dividing Poor and Not Poor), and 19% rating themselves as Hindi Mahirap or Not Poor (“SOCIAL WEATHER REPORT | Filipino families Self-Rated as Poor steady at 51% since December 2022,” May 7, 2023, www.sws.org.ph).

On the other hand, based on the type of food eaten by their families, the March 2023 survey found 39% of families rating themselves as Food-Poor, 35% rating themselves as Borderline Food-Poor (by placing themselves on a horizontal line dividing Poor and Not Poor), and 26% rating themselves as Not Food-Poor (“SOCIAL WEATHER REPORT | Filipino families Self-Rated as Food-Poor rise to 39% from 34% in December 2022,” May 7, 2023, www.sws.org.ph).

The rate of Overall Hunger (i.e., Moderate plus Severe) fell among the Non-Poor (Not Poor plus Borderline Poor) from 7.8% in December 2022 to 3.9% in March 2023. However, it hardly changed among the Self-Rated Poor, barely moving from 15.7% to 15.4% [Chart 8].

At the same time, the rate of Overall Hunger fell sharply among the Non-Food-Poor (Not Food-Poor plus Borderline Food-Poor), from 11.8% in December 2022 to 4.3% in March 2023. However, it rose slightly among the Self-Rated Food-Poor, from 17.7% to 18.5% [Chart 9].

Rates of hunger among the Self-Rated Food-Poor are always higher than rates of hunger among the Self-Rated Poor at any point in time.

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 on the family’s experience of Hunger, 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.

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

Nitong nakaraang tatlong buwan, nangyari po ba kahit minsan na ang inyong pamilya ay nakaranas ng gutom at wala kayong makain? (OO, HINDI) [In the last three months, did it happen even once that your family experienced hunger and not have anything to eat? (YES, NO)].

IF EXPERIENCED HUNGER: Nangyari po ba ‘yan ng MINSAN LAMANG, MGA ILANG BESES, MADALAS, o PALAGI? [Did it happen ONLY ONCE, A FEW TIMES, OFTEN, or ALWAYS?]”

Moderate Hunger refers to those who experienced hunger “Only Once” or “A Few Times” in the last three months, while Severe Hunger refers to those who experienced it “Often” or “Always” in the last three months.

Self-Rated Poverty and Self-Rated Food Poverty. 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 for Self-Rated Poverty and Self-Rated Food Poverty was:

Saan po ninyo ilalagay ang inyong pamilya sa kard na ito? [Where would you place your family in this card?] (SHOW CARD - DO NOT READ)

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?] (SHOW CARD - DO NOT READ)”

Figure 1

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 Poor’), while the other half are shown a card containing the reverse order (negative showcard), 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.

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

Chart 3

Chart 4

Chart 5

Chart 6

Chart 7

Chart 8

Chart 9

Table 1

Table 2

Table 3

Table 4

Table 5

Table 6


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