13.1 million Filipino families consider themselves poor, says SWS survey

Michelle Abad

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13.1 million Filipino families consider themselves poor, says SWS survey
The end of 2019 result of the SWS survey for self-rated poor families is the highest in 5 years

MANILA, Philippines – In the last quarter of 2019, 54% of families considered themselves poor, according to the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey. That result of the survey conducted in December was 12 percentage points above the previous mark of 42% in September 2019.

The SWS said that 54% translated to around 13.1 million self-rated poor families in December 2019. In September that year, it was at 10.3 million.

The latest figure leaped to its highest in over 5 years, when the self-rated poverty rate climbed to 55%  in September 2014.

The December 2019 figure was a jump of 3.6 million more families who considered themselves poor from the “record low” first quarter survey conducted just at the beginning of previous year..

However, despite that leap in the last quarter, the annual average of self-rated poverty in 2019 declined at 45%, compared to the 48% in 2018.

The self-rated poverty rates among families in the last quarter of 2019 are:  67% in Visayas, 64% in Mindanao, 47% in Balance Luzon, and 41% in Metro Manila.

How much they would need

The self-rated poverty threshold (SRPT) – the minimum monthly budget poor families need for home expenses not to be poor – had a median value at P12,000 in 2019.

The families were also asked how much they lacked (Magkano pa po ba ang kulang ninyo sa ngayon?”) compared to their SRPT. The result would refer to the self-rated poverty gap (SRPG). The median SPRG was P5,000 in December.

In the past, the median SRPG was normally half of the median SRPT. Since the median SRPG is at P5,000 compared to the P12,000, this means that the poorer half of the poor lack half of what they need for survival.

‘Newly’ poor families

Out of the 54% self-rated poor families, 7% considered themselves “newly poor” (non-poor 1-4 years ago), which translated to 1.6 million families. Another 7% felt they were “usually poor” (used to be non-poor 5 or more years ago), which is 1.8 million families. 

The remaining 40% always considered themselves poor, which translated to 9.7 million families.

The survey also looked at self-rated non-poor families. In that category, 6.3 million families believed they used to be poor, while 5 million families say they never experienced poverty.

Food poverty

The December survey found an estimated 8.6 million families who described themselves food-poor, this increased by 1.5 million families since September. 

However, the self-rated food poverty rate declined in its annual average at 31% in 2019 and 33% in 2018.

The self-rated food poverty threshold (SRFPT) – the minimum monthly food budget poor families need in order for their food to not be poor – had a national median at P5,000 in December.


By area, the median SRFPT in Visayas was P6,000, followed by P5,500 in Balance Luzon, and P5,000 in Mindanao.  – Rappler.com

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers overseas Filipinos, the rights of women and children, and local governments.