Nearly 20M poor Filipinos in 2021 as COVID-19 drives up poverty rate to 18.1%

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 15) — Almost 20 million Filipinos lived in poverty in 2021 as the country continues to weather the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippine Statistics Authority said Monday.

The PSA estimated 19.99 million individuals or 3.5 million families had per capita incomes unable to meet their basic food and non-food needs, or a poverty rate of 18.1%. These persons lived below the poverty threshold of about ₱12,030 per month for a family of five.

The tally is higher than the 17.67 million poor Filipinos recorded in pre-pandemic 2018, when the rate was at 16.7% and the poverty threshold was ₱10,756.

In household terms, about 3.5 million families lived in poverty last year, compared to 3 million three years earlier.

The agency also reported that last year, the subsistence incidence — or the proportion of Filipinos not earning enough even for their basic food needs — was 5.9%, an increase from 5.2% in 2018.

The 2021 subsistence rate was equivalent to 6.55 million persons, compared to the earlier 5.54 million people.

Meanwhile, there were 1.04 million food-poor families, up from 840,000 three years earlier.

The PSA said a family of five needed at least ₱8,379 monthly to meet basic food requirements, also up from ₱7,553 in 2018.

The agency also reported a 22.6% income gap, which measures the average amount one needs to not be considered poor. This means a poor household of five needs an additional monthly income of ₱2,719 to emerge out of poverty.

The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) "consistently figured" with the highest poverty rate among families at 29.8%, said the PSA.

The National Capital Region (2.2%), Cordillera Administrative Region (6.9%), Central Luzon (8.3%), and Calabarzon (7.2%) had the lowest, it added.

In terms of provinces, Basilan and Sulu joined Agusan del Sur, Davao Occidental, Sarangani, and Zamboanga del Norte in the country's poorest cluster.

Meanwhile, Apayao, Batangas, Cagayan, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Ifugao, Kalinga, Lanao del Sur, Palawan, and Quirino entered the least poor cluster in 2021, which was composed of 24 provinces and four NCR districts.

"The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including income and employment losses, caused the poverty incidence to rise. Restrictions on mobility and low earning capacity of poor households due to limited access to regular and productive jobs made the lives of Filipinos difficult," said National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) chief Arsenio Balisacan during the briefing.

NEDA is batting for the economy's full reopening, more human capital investments, and the transformation of production sectors to create more and quality job opportunities for Filipinos.

Balisacan said these strategies are seen to trim the poverty incidence by five percentage points and another four by 2028, hopefully bringing the rate to a single-digit 9% then.