- in Philippines
PSA Press conference for the 2018 full year report. Photo from PNA.

Poverty in the Philippines has been decreasing significantly in recent years, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority’s 2018 full-year report. The same report shows that overall income in the Philippines has been increasing while inequality has been decreasing.

2018 poverty incidence was reported at 16.6 percent of the population, or 17.6 million Filipinos. This is a significant decrease from 2015, where the same agency’s full-year report rated poverty at 23.3 percent of the population, or 23.5 million. This drop in poverty incidence represents 5.9 million Filipinos lifted from poverty between the years 2015 and 2018.

The same report showed that the Philippines has a recorded poverty reduction rate of 2.23 percentage points per annum. The significant reduction in poverty was largely thanks to an improved labor market and the increase in salaries and wages of the poor.

A statement from the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA)’s Officer-in-charge Adoracion M. Navarro addressed these statistics to express his optimism for the future. Navarro shared how this progress places the Philippines in an optimal position to achieve its Sustainable Development Goal targets for 2030 of eradicating extreme poverty and cutting by half the population living below the poverty line in the country.

The Philippines has already nearly reached its 2022 goal of lifting 6 million Filipinos out of poverty a full 6 years earlier than planned. 

These strides in development were credited by NEDA to the successful strategies of the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022. According to the economic agency, the measures promoted in the PDP need to be “sustained, if not further enhanced” as they result in inclusive growth for the nation.

Navarro specifically highlighted the contributions of the government’s social assistance initiatives, like the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino, Unconditional Cash Transfer, Pantawid Pasada, and Social Pension programs as reasons for the betterment of the country’s poorest sectors.

He elaborated on how the government transfers benefited the bottom three deciles by increases of 34.8, 32.8, and 25.0 percent, respectively.

Besides cash transfers, the full implementation of the social pension program also augmented the incomes of poor households. Families from the first income decile saw a 52.6 percent increase in their pension and retirement benefits from 2015-2018. 

Consistent and significant strides have been made in recent years towards addressing the nation’s poverty problem. However, the Philippine nation is on track towards improving this. Further investments into quality education for all Filipinos, particularly the poor and disadvantaged sectors, is another long-term program to lift millions more countrymen out of poverty. This is the next major challenge being faced by the country, which is why the Department of Education has multiple initiatives like the recently launched Sulong EduKalidad program. This initiative aims to improve student’s learning environments and update the K to 12 curriculum, as well as provide further training for teachers. In true inclusive fashion, the program involves many other stakeholders to ensure that Filipino children are getting the support they need.

Social vulnerabilities facing families are also being addressed. The government has several initiatives, like the First 1,000 Days program of the Early Childhood Care and Development Council, which aim to holistically tackle the challenges facing childhood development and future prosperity. 

Circling back to economic measures, NEDA credited President Duterte’s Comprehensive Tax Reform Program for accelerating the reduction of poverty and inequality in the country through its introduction of a simplified, fairer, and more efficient tax system.

“Rest assured that we in the government will continue our efforts to improve the quality of life of our people, leaving no one behind. And as you already know, our goal goes beyond poverty reduction; it is about enabling every Filipino to enjoy a matatag, maginhawa, at panatag na buhay,” Navarro said in conclusion to his statement.

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