The government remains on track to hit its target poverty rate of 11% by 2022 despite “temporary” setbacks in poverty-reduction efforts due to the economic fallout of the pandemic.
National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Acting Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said Friday that the poverty rate is expected to increase due to the pandemic but there remains a “strong chance” poverty will hit target levels in the next two years.
“Given the virus, and the pandemic, (poverty) is expected to go up but there are many indications that this is only temporary, and we have a strong chance to still hit the targets that NEDA has set forth, the new targets, around 11%,” Mr. Chua said at an online briefing.
The government’s economic team adopted in January a more ambitous poverty-rate target of 11% by 2022, after actual poverty incidence dropped to 16.6% in 2018 from the revised 23.3% in 2015. The recent poverty gains mean 5.9 million Filipinos have recently emerged out of poverty.
He said more parts of the country have relaxed their lockdowns to more premissive general community quarantine, indicating that more local economies are opening up.
He said poor in the rural areas were not severely affected by the pandemic and farmers continued to plant and sell their produce as markets for food remained active, supply chains were “not disrupted” and inflation remained low.
“So there is no supply problem… and I think, that is a good sign,” he said.
The poor segment of the population in the National Capital Region is estimated at 1.8% of the total, significantly lower than 30.15% in the rest of Luzon, 23% in Visayas and 45.1% in Mindanao, according to the 2018 Family Income and Expenditure Survey.
He said the increase in underemployment to 18% was not significant and still relatively low due to the subsidy programs rolled out by the government.
Underemployment is defined as those holding jobs who are seeking more work
“The combination of all these factors suggest that there might be a temprorary deterioration of poverty but I think given the policies in place, we are on track to still further improve our poverty numbers,” Mr. Chua added.
The jobless rate surged to 17.7% in April, equivalent to 7.25 million unemployed, against 5.1% a year earlier, when around 2.27 million were unemployed. This meant roughly five million lost their jobs when the lockdowns were in full force.
NEDA Undersecretary Rosemarie G. Edillon said at the briefing that despite the setbacks, measures are in place to gradually restore the five million jobs lost.
“We are coming up with concrete measures at the very least to get back, hopefully, 5 million (jobs),” Ms. Edillon said.
She said there are short-term opportunities for the jobless once the global supply chains normalize, pointing to more work becoming available in the electronics sector. — Beatrice M. Laforga