Children suffer from multiple dimensions of poverty

Policy Brief No. 3
More children are income poor
In 2006, the latest official poverty
statistics show that one-third (32.9%)
of the entire Philippine population is
considered poor. This is equivalent to
roughly 27.6 million people. Of this
number of poor, 47 percent or 12.8
million consist of children below 15
years of age. Worse, the number of
income-poor children has risen by a
million during the period 2003–2006
and has in fact slightly approximated
its magnitude of two-and-a-half
decades ago.
Aside from the rising income poverty, it
is a disturbing situation when about
half (44%) of all the children are living
in poverty. The lack of income can have
more adverse impacts on them because
unlike adults, children are still in certain
developmental stages where proper
nourishment is necessary and are most
vulnerable to diseases. Moreover,
families with inadequate income may
be discouraged to send their children to
school. School participation rates,
which are already declining, may slide
Children suffer from
multiple dimensions
of poverty
Aside from the rising income poverty, it is a disturbing situation
when about half (44%) of all Filipino children are living in poverty.
The lack of income can have more adverse impacts on them
because unlike adults, children are still in certain developmental
stages where proper nourishment is necessary and are most
vulnerable to diseases. Moreover, families with inadequate income
may be discouraged to send their children to school.
down further because schoolgoers
(aged 7–14 years old) comprise the
majority, at 58 percent, of children
without adequate income.
Figure 1. Children in poverty by region, 2006
Source: Authors’ estimates; Figure 2 of PIDS Policy Notes No. 2009-06.
Poverty rate varies widely
across regions
Income poverty rates greatly differ
across the regions in the country. The
national estimate, already dismal as it
is, does not truly reflect what is
happening in the regions. Figure 1
which presents a color-coded map of
the Philippines (wherein dark green/
light green indicates “better off” while
red/light red means “worse off”)
illustrates the wide disparities in the
magnitude of the poor across the
various regions in the country. For
instance, the number of poor children in
Bicol is about six-folds the number in
the Cordillera Administrative Region
(CAR). It also shows that the incomepoor people are concentrated in the
Visayas, Bicol, and CALABARZON
regions. Poverty is more concentrated
in the rural areas. In fact, of the 12.8
million estimated poor children in
2006, 9.2 million are in the rural areas.
In terms of poverty rates, one can also
see from the map that the poverty rate
The Filipino child
in the Autonomous Region of Muslim
Mindanao (ARMM)—69.3 percent—is
more than four times that of Metro
Manila (15.8).
Malnutrition prevalence
In recent years, the prevalence of
malnutrition among Filipino children
aged 0–5 years old has gone up. The
2008 National Nutrition Survey showed
that a greater proportion of children
aged 0–5 years old were considered to
be underweight in 2008 compared to
the rate in 2005. This increase (1.6%),
in fact, marked the largest rise in the
prevalence of underweight. The percentages of under-height and thin children
likewise went up. The case of children
aged 6–10 years old is no better.
More children are not
in school
There is also a rise in the number of
children not attending school. Estimates made from the Annual Poverty
Indicators Survey (APIS) reveal that the
number of children aged 6–16 years
old not currently attending school went
up from 1.8 million in 2002 to 2.2
million in 2007. Among the most
commonly cited reasons for not
attending school are lack of personal
interest and high cost of education.
More children as informal
Children in informal settlements are
also growing quite rapidly. The number
doubled between 1985 and 2006. Of
the 1.2 million children living as
informal settlers in 2006, 382,000
come from the National Capital Region
(NCR). In fact, 1 out of 10 children in
NCR is an informal settler.
More children suffer
from multiple deprivations
There are now more children suffering
from multiple types of deprivation than
before. In 2006, about 17,000 children
suffered from simultaneous deprivation
in terms of shelter, sanitation, and
water. This figure is equivalent to 0.06
percent of all children in the country.
This proportion of children living in this
dire state is higher in 2006 than in
2003 (0.04%). Children facing at least
two types of deprivation have likewise
not been reduced in recent times.
Policy Brief No. 3
The Child Development Index
In June 2009, the National Statistical
Coordination Board (NSCB) released the
2006 Child Development Index which
showed that the human development of
Filipino children has been deteriorating,
especially in the period between 2003
and 2006 when the country’s poverty
rate rose. The index is a composite of
health, education, and quality of life
indicators whose measure ranges from
0 to 1. The higher the index is, the
better is the performance. For the
Philippines, the index went down from
0.779 in 2003 to 0.729 in 2006,
clearly calling for urgent measures to
improve the lives of Filipino children.
Progress has been made
in several areas
Despite the worsening poverty situation
of children in the Philippines, however,
several key improvements have been
marked. These include the improvements in child survival indicators. For
instance, infant and under-five mortality
rates were both declining quite significantly. The proportion of children
deprived of electricity has rapidly gone
down through the years. Also, those
without access to radio, television,
telephone, and computer have also
decreased. Access to both water and
sanitary facilities has also improved.
Policy recommendations
Notwithstanding such improvements,
there is a need to come up with a
roadmap for poverty reduction, in
particular for the alleviation of the
children’s situation. To be able to do
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this, the following should be considered:
Regional disparities in poverty
incidence, which exhibit differing needs
and requirements, call for more focused
interventions to address such disparities and differences in needs. For
instance, Bicol and the Visayas regions
have the greatest shares of incomepoor children. NCR, on the other hand,
while it has the lowest percentage of
income poor, its main poverty issues
nonetheless have to focus on shelter
and informal settlements. ARMM’s
problems however encompass many
areas—income poverty, sanitation,
malnutrition, and water, among others.
Aside from the need to formulate
different strategies and programs for
the different regions, targeted interventions are important given the limited
resources of the government. ARMM,
for instance, should be a top priority on
the poverty reduction agenda because
of its problems in almost all areas
tackled in this study. Children suffering
from multiple types of deprivation
should also be prioritized. Metro
Manila, SOCCKSARGEN, and Central
Luzon have the largest shares of
children in this dismal condition.
Finally, given the recent calamities
and crises that struck the country, a
well-designed, well-targeted, and
sustainable social protection system, not
just ad hoc temporary assistance, must
be put in place in order to mitigate the
impact of both crises and calamities on
the poor, especially on children. These
could prevent further deterioration in
nutrition and education outcomes. †
The Filipino Child Policy Brief is culled from studies
under the joint UNICEF-PIDS project titled “Global
study on child poverty and disparities: Philippines.” It
highlights specific issues on child poverty in the
Philippines and draws out their implications for policy.
The authors are Celia M. Reyes and Aubrey D. Tabuga,
Senior Research Fellow and Supervising Research
Specialist, respectively, at the Institute. Unless
otherwise specified, estimates are based on the
authors’ calculations. Sources of basic data are the
Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) and Annual Poverty Indicator Survey of
the National Statistics Office (NSO); and National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB)
for the poverty thresholds. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not
necessarily reflect those of UNICEF policy or programmes and PIDS.