It is well known that poverty in the Philippines is probably the country’s worst and most widespread problem with over thirty percent of the population below the poverty line ($1.35 a day), according to a 2009 estimate from CIA World Factbook. This means that over thirty percent of the population at the moment does not have the money to afford basic human needs such as clean and fresh water, health care, nutrition, and education. While this is an astonishing number, it does not show why the poverty problem in the Philippines is as drastic as it is. This can be realized from the lack of progress in the reduction of the country’s poverty over the past two decades.
The graph to the left shows poverty reduction in several East Asian countries: China, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The graph shows the percentage of the countries’ populations that have an income of less than $1 a day. As is clear from the graph, the Philippines has the slowest rate of poverty decline out of all these countries. Even China, who in the early 1990s had thirty percent of their population making less than $1 a day now has less of their population below the poverty line than the Philippines, despite having the largest population in the world. Three major causes for the slow poverty reduction rate in the Philippines are: slow economic growth, high population growth, and the unequal distribution of wealth between the rich and the poor.
While GDP growth in the Philippines has actually been increasing at a relatively fast pace compared to the world average, the GDP per capita growth rate has been very slow, especially when compared to surrounding Southeast Asian countries.
This graph shows the GDP per capita growth of five different countries from Southeast Asia from 1957 to the projected GDP per capita value at 2015. As you can see from the graph, the Philippines had the second highest GDP per capita in 1957. However, during the next 50 years, the economy’s growth rate became stagnant. It is projected from this graph that in 2015, Vietnam will surpass the GDP per capita of the Philippines despite having the lowest value of the five countries shown above in 1957. Although the GDP per capita of a country can be skewed due to unequal distribution of the country’s wealth, it is imperative for high, long-term economic growth in a country in order for poverty to be reduced rapidly. Economic growth will enable three things, a trickle down effect of the wealth of the rich to the poor, more job opportunities, and the opportunity for improvement in the country’s infrastructure, such as improved education and roads.
The primary reason for slow economic growth in the Philippines is due to the high population growth in the country. Southeast Asian countries neighboring the Philippines that have seen significant improvement in poverty reduction have all undergone a demographic transformation in which mortality rates and fertility rates have both declined. The Philippines, however, has seen mortality rates decline and fertility rates remain the same. As a result, those other countries enjoyed the benefits of having a large and growing percentage of their population as part of their work force. The Philippines does not enjoy this luxury. As you can see from this population pyramid, the largest age groups of the population are not able to work, which is the result of high fertility rates and high population growth. This is detrimental to the fight against poverty in the Philippines because large families with young children will need more money than smaller families but will not be able to generate the money necessary to obtain their basic needs. For example, a family of five that has 4 people that can work and make money will less likely fall into poverty as a family of five that has only 2 people that are able to work. Unfortunately, it is difficult for the government to control population growth because, as most of the population is Catholic, the Catholic Church is against contraception of any form.
Poverty in the Philippines can also be seen as the result of a drastic disparity between different demographic sections in the country. The disparity between the top ten percent and the bottom ten percent is one of the largest in the entire world. According to the Financial Express, the richest top ten percent of families in the Philippines makes more than one-third of the country’s entire income. If the Philippines’ economy was as strong as the United States’ or Japan’s, this wouldn’t be as much of an issue. However, the Philippines is a developing country and its disparity between the rich and the poor is actually much greater than either of those economic powerhouses. Also, there is a disparity between the urban and rural populations in the Philippines. The rural population actually makes up over two-thirds of the poor people in the country. This is because the government has been developing the urban parts of the country while virtually ignoring the rural population, even though there are more people in rural areas than there are in urban areas. Because of this, the smaller percentage of poor people in urban areas are helped, while the larger percentage in rural areas are left alone.
Although the slow poverty reduction in the country has been very slow for the past few decades, there are several policies that can help improve the reduction rate. One way is to improve education in the country and create policies that will allow all children to attend school. This will allow more people to gain job opportunities that they might not have had before. It might also help raise entrepreneurship in the country, which will add to the country’s economic growth. Also, improved education on health might help the public become more aware of how to use contraception, which will reduce the high population growth in the country. Another way to reduce poverty is to make more roads and bridges between rural and urban areas, which will allow farmers easier access to the markets. This will expand the growth of the agriculture industry, which is a huge part of the country’s economy. If these policies, along with improved economic growth, are put into action, it is likely the poverty rate
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