MANILA — The COVID-19 pandemic has driven more Filipinos into poverty, the Commission on Population and Development (Popcom) said Thursday, citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
Popcom Undersecretary Juan Antonio Perez III said that compared to the first half of 2018, more Filipino families plunged into poverty in the same period of 2021, or a year into the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Gumawa ng pag-aaral ang [PSA] ukol sa poverty sa Philippines comparing first half ng 2018 to the first half of 2021. Nakita na tumaas ang bilang ng pamilyang Pilipinong naghirap ‘no, from 4 million naging 4.6 million," Perez said in a public briefing.
The Popcom official said the figure is equivalent to 23 percent of the population who were in the poverty line or those earning below P12,000 monthly.
According to the report, the regions hit hardest by the pandemic registered the biggest increase in the number of poor Filipinos.
“So lumalabas na 26 million Filipinos are living below the cost of living and tumaas ito sa mga lugar na mataas ang COVID, iyong mga areas like NCR, Central Luzon, Central Visayas. Kung saan mataas ang COVID, doon mataas ang impact ng poverty,” the official said.
He is hopeful, however, that recent improvements in the country’s economic situation would lead more Filipinos out of poverty.
LIVING WAGE SOUGHT
He is also optimistic that the incoming Marcos Jr. administration will look at implementing a "living wage" for workers that would consider cost of living instead of the current minimum wage system.
Many regions in the country, he pointed out, have set a minimum wage that pays workers below the daily P549 or about P12,000 monthly income, which is the poverty threshold set by PSA.
“It is below the minimum wage in many regions, so kulang sa P12,000 ang minimum wage ng mga regions outside of NCR. For example ang minimum wage sa [Bangsamoro] is around P300, so malayo ang needs ng mga Pilipino na pamilya para sa pang-araw-araw na gastusin,” the official explained.
“That’s why we’re proposing to the Popcom Board na pag-isipan iyong pagkaroon ng matatawag nating living wage or a wage that addresses the cost of living. So we hope na ma-take up iyan sa coming administration. Ang tawag namin dito ay support ratio – that means na we should have as many effective workers as consumers para medyo maging maayos ang situation ng families.”
The official meanwhile hopes that the government will take advantage of the so-called demographic transition by investing more in other population development matters such as food security and housing.