SWS poll: More Filipino families felt poor as inflation quickened

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino families who called themselves poor rose slightly to 51% from 49% in December 2022, according to a Social Weather Stations survey released Thursday, as inflation accelerated to its fastest pace in 14 years that month.

According to the private pollster, the number of poor families climbed to 12.9 million from October 2022, representing an increase of around 300,000 households.

Of the families who rated themselves poor in December, the SWS said two million were newly poor, while 5.2 million families joined the 12.6 million who considered themselves not poor.

There were fewer families who said they were not poor, down to 19% from 21%, and more families who placed themselves on the border between poor and not poor, up to 31% from 29%.

The SWS attributed the two-point rise in self-rated poverty to a 13-point leap in the number of poor families in Balance Luzon — or Luzon outside of Metro Manila — to 49% and a 12-point drop in the capital region to 32%, a 10-point contraction in the Visayas to 58% and a five-point decrease in Mindanao to 59%.

The number of families who said they were on the border between poor and not poor rose in all areas, particularly in Visayas which saw a 13-point increase to 34%, except Balance Luzon, where it fell by five points to 30%.

Families who said they were not poor rose in Metro Manila by six points to 39% and in Mindanao by three points to 11%, while they fell in Balance Luzon by nine points to 20% and in Visayas by two points to 9%.

The SWS said the self-rated poverty threshold, or the minimum monthly budget poor families said they needed for household expenses in order not to consider themselves poor, stayed at P15,000.

It said this metric “has remained sluggish for several years despite considerable inflation [which] indicates that poor families have been lowering their living standards, i.e., belt-tightening.”

This is evident across all regions, especially in Metro Manila where the threshold fell to P15,000 from P20,000 and in Mindanao where it dropped to P10,000 from P15,000, while it remained at P15,000 in Balance Luzon and the Visayas.

The median gap between what poor families need and what they have decreased to P5,000, which the SWS said indicated that there is some improvement in their budget for household expenses.

No change among food poor Filipinos

Meanwhile, the number of families who described themselves to be “food-poor,” which is based on the type of food they eat, did not change between October 2022 and December 2022 as it stayed at 34%, representing 8.7 million families.

The SWS said 38% of families found themselves to be in the border between food-poor and not food-poor while 28% rated themselves to be not food-poor.

The pollster said these ratings were due to a six-point rise among food-poor families in Balance Luzon to 28%, a four-point decrease in Metro Manila to 29%, a six-point decline in the Visayas to 38% and a 15-point drop in Mindanao to 45%.

Those who were on the border between food-poor and not food-poor rose in Metro Manila by nine points to 33%, in the Visayas by eight points to 42% and in Mindanao by three points to 14%, while it fell in Balance Luzon by eight points to 36%.

In Balance Luzon and Mindanao, those who rated themselves not food-poor rose slightly by two and three points to 33% and 42%, respectively, while it fell in Metro Manila and the Visayas by five and two points to 38% and 20%, respectively.

According to the SWS, the self-rated food poverty threshold fell to P7,000 from P8,000 while the median self-rated food poverty gap remained at P3,000 like in the past five quarters.

The SWS said the non-commissioned poll was conducted from December 10 to 14 last year through face-to-face interviews with 1,200 adults aged 18 above, with 300 people being asked to participate in each region.