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SWS survey: Hunger up to 20.5%; poverty rises to 51%

Some 20.5 percent of Filipinos or about 4.1 million families are going hungry while more Filipinos are considering themselves poor, according to a new survey by pollster Social Weather Stations. The survey, conducted March 4 to 7 and whose results were published in the SWS media partner BusinessWorld, said some 20.5 percent of Filipino families claimed to have gone hungry at least once in the past three months.
"This was up from the 18.1 percent (an estimated 3.4 million families) recorded in November 2010 when the rate again began climbing from that year’s 15.9 percent low," it said. It added the result is also almost seven points above the 12-year average of 13.8 percent. Also, the survey found 51 percent, or some 10.4 million families, consider themselves "mahirap" or poor – two points up from November’s 49 percent. The survey added 40 percent (8.1 million families) consider themselves food-poor, which is higher than the 36 percent notched in the previous survey. SWS said the rise in overall hunger resulted from increases for both moderate and severe hunger. It added the area comprising Balance Luzon (Luzon minus Metro Manila) was the hardest hit, with hunger rates hitting record highs. Nationwide, moderate hunger – or experiencing it only once or a few times – rose to 15.7 percent (about 3.2 million families) from 15 percent (2.8 million families) in November. Severe hunger – experiencing it often or always – increased to 4.7 percent (950,000 families) from 3.1 percent (588,000 families). By area, overall hunger hit a record 25 percent (2.2 million families) in Balance Luzon from 18.3 percent (1.5 million families). This topped the previous high of 22.3 percent in September 2007, and offset declines in Mindanao (16.7 percent from 18 percent), Metro Manila (20.7 percent from 21.7 percent) and the Visayas (14.7 percent from 15.3 percent). Moderate hunger hit a record 18.7 percent in Balance Luzon, overtaking record of 18.1 percent in March 2010. This also canceled out improvements in the Visayas (9.7 percent from 12.7 percent), Metro Manila (16.7 percent from 17.7 percent) and Mindanao (14.7 percent from 16 percent). "The new moderate hunger rates are still higher than their 12-year averages for all areas, except in the Visayas where the latest ... is lower than the 12-year average of 10.2 percent," the SWS said. Severe hunger also hit a record high of 6.3 percent in Balance Luzon, surpassing the 6 percent hit in December 2008. The rate stayed at four percent in Metro Manila and at two percent in Mindanao but rose to five percent from 2.7 percent in the Visayas. SWS said the latest rates were also higher than the 12-year averages for all areas except for Mindanao where it is some two points lower. Self-rated poverty Self-rated poverty rose in all areas except Metro Manila, where it fell 10 points to 34 percent from 44 percent. But this was overwhelmed by an eight-point increase in the Visayas (61 percent from 53 percent), a five-point gain in Mindanao (49 percent from 44 percent), and by a three-point rise in Balance Luzon (54 percent from 51 percent). It rose by four points to 59 percent in rural areas and by three points to 45 percent in urban areas. Self-rated food poverty Self-rated food poverty fell by four points to 24 percent in Metro Manila but increased elsewhere. The increases included 12 points to 51 percent in the Visayas, four points to 42 percent in Balance Luzon and by four points to 38 percent in Mindanao. The self-rated poverty threshold – the monthly budget that poor households need so as not to consider themselves poor in general – remained sluggish despite inflation. Compared to the previous quarter, the median poverty threshold for poor households stayed at P15,000 in Metro Manila, P9,000 in Balance Luzon and P8,000 in the Visayas. It rose to P7,000 from P5,000 in Mindanao. These amounts had been surpassed in the past in those areas, the SWS said. As of March 2011, the median food-poverty threshold for poor households in Metro Manila fell back to P8,000 after a record-high P9,000 in the previous quarter. It went up to P5,000 from P4,000 in Balance Luzon, stayed at P4,000 in the Visayas, and rose to P3,850 from P3,000 in Mindanao. These amounts had also been surpassed in the past, the SWS said. Belt-tightening As a measurement of belt-tightening, the SWS said median poverty threshold of P15,000 in Metro Manila was barely above the P10,000 in the year 2000, even though the Consumer Price Index (CPI) had risen by over 60 percent. It said the P15,000 is equivalent to just P8,886 in base year 2000 purchasing power and is a throwback to living standards of over 15 years ago. At the March 2011 cost of living, the 2010 median of P10,000 is equivalent to P16,880, and deducting the current P15,000 means households cut living standards by P1,880. In terms of food poverty, food-poor Metro Manila households tightened belts by P42. The survey polled 1,200 adults nationwide and used sampling error margins of ±3% for national and ±6% for area percentages. — LBG, GMA News