Other surveys have found the same pattern, of families getting by with hardly enough food to keep them well. The Social Weather Stations (SWS), in its own surveys, has found significant proportions of Filipino families saying they have been more frequently going without enough food. In its last such survey of March, the SWS found that 13 percent of families did not have anything to eat at least once in the three months prior to the survey. That proportion was a lower 11.5 percent only a quarter earlier in December 2004. In the same March survey, the proportion of “pessimists”—those who say that the quality of their life will worsen over the next year—was 34 percent, setting a new record high since the first survey in 1983, according to SWS.
It figures. Although poverty and hunger are old issues in this country, life is getting even harder. Government’s own Family Income and Expenditures Survey (FIES) says that when adjusted for inflation, the average income of Filipino families fell by 10 percent between 2000 and 2003.
With real incomes falling, families are thus having to cope with less resources for food and other basic needs. Pulse Asia’s survey also asked the same 1,200 respondents whether or not their families were, in the prior three months, able to meet their needs for housing, clothing, medicines and schooling for their children. The results for those variables were similarly grim.
What is even more alarming is that beyond the mean numbers that give us a snapshot, there are groups whose prospects for a better life are even dimmer. Pulse Asia’s survey found, for example, that in Mindanao the proportion of families having inadequate food is 41 percent, way above the national average of 33 percent. The urban-rural discrepancy is equally obvious, with food inadequacy at 38 percent in the rural areas, again significantly higher than the national average.
And even within families, hunger has a way of worsening the deprivation of specific members. The PCIJ has reported on how women bear the brunt of poverty and hunger, getting by with even less food and carrying the most responsibility for making ends meet.
The last Pulse Asia survey’s results may be familiar, but they are far from stale.