18 million Filipinos live below P50/day - ADB study
MANILA, Philippines - The percentage of the Philippine population considered to be poor is higher than the Southeast Asian average, based on a study of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the National University of Singapore (NUS), titled Ending Asian Deprivations.
The report said around 17.71 percent of the populace, or close to 18 million Filipinos—based on the estimated 98 million Philippine population—still live below $1.25 a day (about P50), which is the internationally accepted poverty line.
This is depressing considering that the combined wealth of the 50 richest families in the country already equaled 25 percent of Philippine gross domestic product (GDP).
“Asia’s future prosperity will only be assured if countries continue the fight against poverty and other areas
of deprivation, and this will require proactive state intervention,” ADB Strategy and Policy Department Director General Kazu Sakai said in a statement.
“As the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals [MDGs] looms in 2015, this publication provides a timely reminder of the vast unfinished business in the region and the steps needed to end deprivation across the board,” Sakai added.
Using 2009 data, the report showed that income inequality in the country persists, as the number of those living under $1.25 per day in rural areas are significantly higher at 23 percent than the 12.13 percent in urban areas.
In Southeast Asia, those living below $1.25 per day comprise 14.9 percent of the region’s population, lower than the 17.71 percent recorded in the Philippines. Only Thailand and Vietnam beat the Southeast Asian average with 0.24 percent and 13.88 percent of its population living below the poverty line.
The study also stated that around 16.75 percent of the rural population in Southeast Asia are living below the poverty line, while only 12.64 percent of the urban population live below $1.25 per day.
Only Thailand had a lower proportion of their population in rural areas, at 0.32 percent, living below $1.25 per day compared to the whole of Southeast Asia.
In terms of the proportion of urban population that is living below the poverty line, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines beat the regional average by posting lower rates of 0.09 percent, 3.27 percent and 12.13 percent, respectively.
“Although the poor are everywhere in Asia and the Paciﬁc, some countries have more severe rates of extreme poverty than the Asia and the Paciﬁc average, exceeding one-quarter of the population. These include the South Asian countries of Bangladesh, India and Nepal; Cambodia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Timor-Leste in Southeast Asia; and Papua New Guinea in the Paciﬁc,” the study stated.
These countries—along with ﬁve others with large populations in poverty (although with lower rates of poverty than the regional average) China, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines and Vietnam—account for almost all of the extreme poor in Asia and the Paciﬁc, it added.
The ADB said that despite a sharp reduction in income poverty in recent decades, a fifth of Asia’s population still lives in extreme poverty. If the highly vulnerable who can easily revert to extreme poverty are included, this figure could rise to one in two.
Further, the Manila-based multilateral development bank said many countries would likely fall well short of achieving the MDGs, particularly in areas such as basic sanitation, underweight children, infant and maternal mortality, while growing income gaps and other forms of inequity are becoming increasingly acute.
To solve the problem, the ADB said new approaches should be considered to make growth more inclusive and for countries to employ effective state action in areas such as skills development, delivery of quality education, and incentives for entrepreneurs that can be carried out through institutional improvements and partnerships with the private sector and civil society.
The ADB said policy-makers also need to do more to create conditions for more small- and medium-sized enterprises—a key jobs generator—to flourish, and to reduce the informal sector through actions such as improved property rights and access to finance.
Other areas where the state needs to increase support include infrastructure, improving urban environments, social-protection programs, and the removal of gender inequities and labor-market rigidities to boost employment opportunities.
The ADB earlier estimated that rolling out the needed infrastructure for cross-border connectivity would deliver benefits equivalent to about $13 trillion for developing Asia in the decade up to 2020 and beyond.
“The dominant challenge is to ensure an acceptable and decent level of living and functioning for all of Asia’s citizens. This would require immediate and urgent attention to removing all major deprivations suffered by populations across Asia; however, even when it is agreed that the ultimate aim should be to drastically reduce Asia’s major deprivations, an agreed-upon list of such deprivations will be difﬁcult to develop,” the study, however, stated.