MANILA, Philippines - With a 6-percent increase from the previous quarter in terms of savings, Filipino netizens lead the list of the biggest savers in the world in the first quarter of 2012.
With their savings, these netizens will most likely buy new clothes (36 percent), new technology products (33 percent) and paying off debts/credits/loans (26 percent), the New York, New York-headquartered Nielsen Holdings N.V. said in a recent survey.
“Although we have seen a rising optimism among consumers in the Philippines, the high level of savers in the country is an indication that consumers are still generally cautious when it comes to spending,” according to Stuart Jamieson, Nielsen Philippines managing director.
And as with most Southeast Asian countries, the number of consumers with no spare cash in the Philippines in the first quarter of this year “is relatively low, with only 3 percent claiming they have no spare cash.”
But while “savings remain a top priority for a majority of consumers around the world for utilizing spare cash…more than seven in 10 [74 percent] online consumers in the Philippines will put their money [in] savings, compared to only 50 percent for global consumers and 66 percent for Asia Pacific.”
And while consumer concern for the economy remained a top worry among one in five consumers in Southeast Asia (19 percent) and 22 percent in Asia Pacific, 27 percent of online Filipinos are still most concerned about job security in the country.
Nielsen said the economy ranked fourth with almost one in 10 online consumer considering it as their major concern.
“Filipinos, [similarly] with [other] netizens in Southeast Asia, are also concerned about work/life balance [17 percent], health [7 percent] and parents’ welfare and happiness [6 percent],” it added.
The Filipino netizens topped another area covered by the recent Nielsen survey—personal finances. “Seventy-nine percent of online consumers in the Philippines described their personal finances for the next 12 months as excellent or good, topping the list of most optimistic in the world on state of personal finances, together with Indonesia and India. Nearly three in four [72 percent] consumers are also optimistic about local job prospects,” Nielsen said.
“This confidence in both job prospects and personal finances translated into nearly half [47 percent] of consumers indicating that it was a good time to purchase the things they want/need, an increase of one percentage point from [Quarter 4] 2011,” it added.
“The confidence toward job prospects and financial condition is mainly driven by the growth of business-process outsourcing that opens job opportunities for many Filipinos,” Jamieson said.
As the new year began, Filipinos were found by the recent Nielsen survey to be the third most optimistic consumers in the world.
“Rising one percentage point from the previous quarter, the Philippines shared the third spot with Indonesia, with an index of 118, while India  and Saudi Arabia  placed first and second, respectively,” Nielsen said in a statement on its poll released on Wednesday.
But while the index score was higher by one point from the previous quarter, the current quarter’s index is still two points lower than the 120 score the Philippines was given in the fourth quarter of 2010.
According to development worker Erwin Puhawan, the high optimistic index at the time more than a year ago can be credited to the promise of a new government to replace the administration of then-President Gloria Arroyo.
But that index dipped to 110 in the first quarter of 2011 and went into a roller coaster in the next three quarters: 115 in the second quarter of 2011; 112 in the third; and 117 in the fourth quarter of last year.
Nonetheless, the Philippine index score is in line with the global trend, wherein “consumer confidence increased five index points to 94 with overall confidence rising in 68 percent of global markets measured, compared to [Quarter 4] 2011 where confidence increased in just 21 percent of global markets.”
Nielsen said global consumer confidence in the first quarter of the year “increased in 38 out of 56 markets, fell in 16 markets and remained flat in two.”
“Filipinos are still optimistic and this is likely driven by the relative stability of global economic conditions. [But] underlying conditions are still fragile and fluid in many parts of the world, and this could affect consumer confidence and spending momentum for the coming quarter,” the statement quoted Jamieson as saying.
The latest round of the seven-year-old Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions was conducted between February 10 and February 27, 2012.
The company said it tracks consumer confidence, major concerns and spending intentions among more than 28,000 Internet consumers in 56 countries. Consumer confidence levels above and below a baseline of 100, Nielsen added, indicate degrees of optimism and pessimism.