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Poverty data from a survey on coping consumers

How do the poor fare in these times of strong economic growth, solid fundamentals, and a surging stock market?

Global economic history often finds that the poor are left behind. So it is best to check, as one can’t assume that all sectors benefit equally from the growth totals. Data from a recent Social Weather Stations survey reveal a mixed bag for the poor.

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SWS conducted the 2012 Consumer Coping Behavior Survey, a project led by marketing guru Dr. Ned Roberto. He presented the findings in a seminar of Salt and Light Ventures in February 2013.

The SWS survey interviewed 1,200 housewives across the nation in the third quarter of 2012. It covered marketing concerns, showing how consumers valued 159 products and services, from being “staples” to “definitely dispensable.” It helped marketers to respond to consumers’ budgeting behavior.

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The coping study went back a long way. It began in 1984 and 1985 as the economy crumpled after the Ninoy Aquino assassination in 1983. It was repeated in 1987 after the coup attempt then, and in 1990 after another coup attempt. The survey ran again in 1998 and 1999 during the Asian crisis, in the 1st and 4th quarters of 2001 after the Edsa 2 revolution, in 2006 after the failed Gloria Arroyo impeachment attempt, in 2008 before the global economic crisis, and in 2012.

This piece will skip the survey’s rich marketing insights which other articles have reported. It will focus rather on findings that pertain to poverty.

Class distribution

One result is the distribution of households by socio-economic class. In this system, AB households are the rich, C are the middle class, D are the lower class, and E are the extremely lower class. The system relies much on housing as the indicator.

Houses of the poor class D are found in shabby neighborhoods. They are semi-permanent structures, made of light and cheap materials, poorly constructed, generally unpainted, and badly in need of repair.

Houses of the destitute class E are found in slum districts, interiors or densely populated and shabby areas. They are temporary structures, the “barong-barong” (shanty) type. They are poorly constructed or one-room affairs, unpainted or dilapidated.

The SWS survey found a distribution of 11 percent in the rich class AB, 7 percent in the middle class C, 62 percent in the poor class D, and 20 percent in the extremely poor class E.

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In Metro Manila, three of four residents were from class D. “Balance Luzon” or the rest of Luzon had the biggest slice of the middle class, at 17 percent. In the Visayas and Mindanao, fully a third were from class E, giving them the worst poverty profile.

Experiencing being hard up

The survey asked, how did household incomes this year compare with those of last year?

A fifth (20 percent) of Metro Manila’s DE housewives said their present income was less than that of the previous year. That is a big improvement over the peak 51 percent who had the same assessment in the first quarter of 2001. It is a bit worse compared to the readings in 2006 (14 percent) and 2008 (15 percent).

How did their present incomes compare with their expenditure needs? A fourth (25 percent) of Metro Manila DE housewives said their income fell “extremely short” of their expenditure needs. This was around the same ratio seen in 2008, and more than three times that of 2006. Such suffering peaked in 1985, at 48 percent.

How often did the people experience being hard-up (“kapus”) in the past four weeks? These frequencies were cited, as shown in the table below. In Metro Manila, 2012, 8 percent had the “kapus” experience every day, an improvement over the 18 percent reading in 2008. In fact, 22 percent did not experience it at all in 2012.

However, in 2012, a fourth (26 percent) of Metro Manila DE housewives experienced being “kapus” daily. That was the same as their 1985 level—but was 13 times that of 2001. That is, in 2001, only 2 percent of the Metro Manila DE housewives were kapus daily, compared to 21 percent in 2008 and 26 percent in 2012.

The same rise was seen for the kapus experience of six times to every other day in the past month: 4 percent in 2001, 11 percent in 2008, and 32 percent in 2012.

When viands are unaffordable

Among the most interesting poverty findings covered the use of surrogate “ulam” or meals. That is, when the poor couldn’t afford viands, they sprinkled salt, bagoong, or sugar on their rice. They would also pour soy sauce, pork oil, coffee, or condensed milk as the substitute viand.

In 2012, 45 percent of households in Metro Manila used such substitutes for their meals. The ratios for this were 59 percent in Balance Luzon, 64 percent in the Visayas, and 73 percent in Mindanao.

In 2012, in Metro Manila, 23 percent poured soy sauce on their rice, 3 percent poured coffee, and 4 percent sprinkled salt.

However, the readings showed improvement compared with 2008. The ratios in 2012 were lower across all areas and almost all viand substitutes.

Table 1: Socio-Economic Class Distribution
Socio-economic class     Philippines     NCR      Balance                        Visayas                 Mindanao
Luzon
AB (rich)                                   11%            11%         11%                                  10%                     10%
C (middle)                                  7                4             17                                      3                            5
D (lower)                                  62              77            62                                     54                         54
E (extremely lower)               20                8             10                                    33                          31

Table 2: Frequency of Being Hard-up in a Month in Metro Manila, All Classes

2012         2008
None                                                        22%        8%
1-5 times                                                 62         63
6 times to every other day                    6          10
Everyday                                                  8          18

Table 3: Incidence of Using Meal Substitutes

2012                     2008
Have used any meal substitute / Mindanao                             73%                      87%
Have used any meal substitute / Visayas                                  64                         65
Have used any meal substitute  / Balance Luzon                    59                         70
Have used any meal substitute / NCR                                       45                         58
Soy sauce                                                                                        23%                      19%
Bagoong                                                                                          15                          32
Tomato                                                                                             9                          24
Salt                                                                                                    4                            6
Coffee                                                                                               3                          20
Pork oil                                                                                            2                             8
Sugar                                                                                                2                             6
Condensed milk                                                                             2                             5

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