Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Child poverty in PH on the rise—study

The number of children living in poverty in the Philippines continues to climb despite the country's recent economic gains.

According to a study titled “Child Poverty in the Philippines” by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), 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 deprivations of food, shelter, health, and education," said Dr. Celia Reyes, PIDS senior research fellow and lead author of the study.

Using data collected from national surveys and administrative records of various government agencies, the key findings of the study demonstrate that both the number and severity of poverty among Filipino children have been increasing through the years.

Around 10 million of these children face at least two overlapping types of severe deprivation in basic amenities while an estimated .75 million face at least five kinds of deprivation simultaneously.

During the same year, there were around 4 million children who did not have access to sanitary toilet facilities while 4 million did not have access to safe water. Another 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,” Ms. Reyes said.

In terms of education, the key issues are low cohort survival and poor level of achievement. In the last ten years, the percentage of students who were able to complete elementary and secondary levels have 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,” the study noted.

Poverty in the country is largely a rural phenomenon. The study 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.

Zamboanga Peninsula, Eastern Visayas, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) were identified by the study as the regions where the condition of children is dismal in many aspects and therefore should be prioritized in interventions.

“The updated Philippine Development Plan recognizes the need to have spatial focus to address the specific needs of provinces and has identified priority provinces. A more targeted approach will hopefully address the varying needs of children across the provinces,” Ms. Reyes stated.

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.

“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.

According to the study, the problem goes beyond 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 lack of job opportunities and other economic problems. (PIDS)

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