The Philippine Statistical System (PSS), through the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), releases its latest report today on the 2012 full year official poverty statistics in the country. The NSCB report— using income data from the Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) conducted by the National Statistics Office (NSO) in two visits last July 2012 and January 2013 – estimates poverty incidence or the proportion of poor families to the total number of families. The report also examines various monetary and non-monetary measures of poverty in the country.
In a press briefing, NSCB Secretary General Jose Ramon G. Albert reports that about one out of every five Pinoy families (19.7 percent) was poor in 2012. Compared with the MDG benchmark, the proportion of poor families has significantly gone down from the 29.7 percent estimated poverty incidence in 1991. The estimate for 2012 is slightly lower than the 2009 and 2006 poverty incidence figures, which were estimated at 20.5 and 21.0 percent, respectively, but these differences are not statistically significant.
Although the proportion of poor families has been practically similar between 2006 and 2012, on account of the country’s growing population, the estimated number of poor families has risen from 3.8 million in 2006 to 4.2 million in 2012.
Food and poverty thresholds
The NSCB report points out that in 2012, a Filipino family of five needed PhP 5,513 to meet basic food needs every month and Php 7,890 to stay above the poverty threshold (basic food and non-food needs) every month. These respective amounts represent the food and poverty thresholds, which increased by 12.4 percent from 2009 to 2012. Such increases can be attributed to inflation of about 4.1% on the average per year between 2009 and 2012.
The food threshold is the minimum income required by a family to meet its basic food needs and satisfy the nutritional requirements set by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), while having individuals in the family remaining economically and socially productive. Put another way, the food threshold helps measure extreme poverty (also called subsistence poverty).
The poverty threshold is a similar concept, but this incorporates costs of basic non-food needs, such as clothing, housing, transportation, health, and education expenses, among others, in addition to costs of basic food needs.
Extreme Poverty among Filipino families
Aside from poverty incidence, the NSCB also released statistics on extreme poverty among families—a crucial social indicator that guides policy makers in their efforts to improve the conditions of the poorest of the poor.
According to the NSCB report, the subsistence incidence, which represents the proportion of Filipino families in extreme poverty, was estimated at 7.5 percent in 2012, which is almost the same in 2009 but the figure in 2012 is significantly lower than the 8.8 percent estimate in 2006.
The NSCB notes that despite the rise in the number of families in the country between 2006 and 2012, the estimated number of extremely poor families has remarkably remained steady at around 1.6 million.
Estimated cost of eradicating poverty
The NSCB also releases other poverty-related statistics in the report, such as the income gap. This measures the amount of income required by the poor in order to get out of poverty, in relation to the poverty threshold itself.
In 2012, on the average, incomes of poor families are short by 26.2 percent of the poverty threshold. This means that a poor family with five members needed a monthly additional income of PhP 2,067 to move out of poverty in 2012.
In other words, using figures for the income gap and the poverty threshold, the NSCB estimates that if government were to provide a mere cash transfer to all poor households in terms of what they would require to cross the poverty line, a total of Php124 billion in 2012 would be required to eradicate poverty (exclusive of targeting costs). It may be noted that the budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), which provides support to poor households conditioned on these families sending their children to school and on pregnant women receiving pre and post-natal care, was Php 39.4 billion for the entirety of 2012.
More timely and frequent release of poverty statistics
This release of the latest official poverty statistics is a remarkable milestone for the country. The FIES, the basic data source for the poverty statistics, could be released as much as 18 months after the reference year, but the 2012 FIES full year results were released by the NSO much ahead of the usual schedule. In consequence, the 2012 full year poverty statistics is now made available to the public less than a year after the conduct of the FIES.
Starting this year 2013, NSCB Secretary General Albert points out that upon the initiative of Director General Arsenio Balisacan of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the monitoring of poverty will be more timely and frequent, especially since first semester data of the FIES are being examined. In addition, the 2013 Annual Poverty Indicators Survey, conducted by the NSO has made use of the FIES income module. In effect, the latter will allow the PSS to generate poverty statistics from the FIES and even the APIS.
Albert says that the NSCB—together with partner institutions, such as the NSO, the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), and the NEDA as well as the group of experts on poverty measurement comprising the NSCB Technical Committee on Poverty Statistics– continue to make the estimation and publication schedule of official poverty statistics more timely, while ensuring data quality and accuracy.
He hopes that these initiatives on more frequent and more timely poverty statistics shall be sustained when the newly established Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), a single body which consolidates the Technical Staff of the NSCB, NSO, BAS, and Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (or BLES), becomes fully operational sometime next year. The consolidation of these statistical agencies comes as a result of the Philippine Statistics Act of 2013, signed into law by President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III last 12 September 2013. These initiatives allow policymakers and poverty stakeholders alike (from both the public and private sectors) to work together in accelerating the reduction of poverty based on more relevant and more up to date snapshots of welfare and living conditions in the country.