POPULATION growth, if uncontrolled, a lack of jobs and other economic problems in the country threaten to aggravate poverty in the Philippines, especially among children, a government think tank said in a study.
The Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) said in a study titled “Child Poverty in the Philippines” said the number of children living in poverty in the country continues to climb despite recent economic gains.
The study, which is based on data collected from national surveys and administrative records of various government agencies, showed there were already about 13.4 million Filipino children living in poverty in 2009.
“This number represents 36 percent or more than one-third of all Filipino children aged below 18. Being poor, they suffer from deprivation of food, shelter, health, and education,” said Celia Reyes, PIDS senior research fellow and lead author of the study.
The key findings of the PIDS study also demonstrate that both the number and severity of poverty among Filipino children have been increasing through the years.
About 10 million of these children face at least two overlapping types of severe deprivation in basic amenities while an estimated 750,000 million face at least five kinds of deprivation simultaneously, it said.
The study revealed that during the same year, there were about 4 million children who did not have access to sanitary toilet facilities while 4 million did not have access to safe water. A further 260,000 kids did not have decent shelter.
“There were 1.4 million children living in informal settlements, 6.5 million did not have access to electricity in their homes, and 3.4 million did not have means to access information,” Reyes added.
In terms of education, the PIDS mentioned key issues, such as low cohort survival and poor level of achievement, noting that in the last 10 years, the percentage of students who were able to complete elementary and secondary levels hardly improved.
“Largely because of poverty, 5.5 million children are forced to work in 2011 to augment family income. These children are unable to pursue their education and this affects their ability to find better work opportunities in the future,” it said.
Moreover, the study found that poverty in the country is largely a rural phenomenon. It estimates that three out of four children from income-poor families are living in the rural areas.
At the same time, eight of 10 who are severely deprived of safe water and sanitary toilet are found in the rural areas.
It also identified the Zamboanga Peninsula, Eastern Visayas, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as the regions where the condition of children is dismal in many aspects and, therefore, should be placed on top of the government’s priorities in intervention.
Meanwhile, population growth, the lack of inclusivity of economic growth, and the exposure of the country to natural calamities, are expected to worsen child poverty within the next few years, the study pointed out.
“In the Philippines, despite the country’s recent economic progress, poverty continues to affect millions of families with young children. This is visible in the number of young ones who wander the streets in urban areas, scavenge for resources, or those who, at an early age, are forced to drop out of school to work to supplement their family income,” Reyes explained.
The study added that the problem goes beyond the mere lack of income or assets for these children’s families.
Their situation speaks of a roster of factors that range from lack of appropriate skills to inability to control fertility, intertwined with a lack of job opportunities and other economic problems, it concluded.