Rural Poverty in the Philippines

The Philippines and its roughly 117,000,000 people have struggled with income inequality for generations. Even as infrastructure and opportunity has improved in highly populated areas in recent decades, poverty in the Philippines, particularly for people living in remote areas, remains a serious issue.

In this blog post, you’ll learn about the complex issue of chronic poverty in the Philippines, its causes, and its impact on families. Additionally, you’ll see how Outreach International is working to alleviate poverty in this Southeast Asian nation.

Adequate access to safe water is a pressing issue for many rural communities in the Philippines.

Decoding Poverty: A Deep Dive into the Statistics

According to the World Bank, between 1985 and 2018, the poverty rate in the Philippines declined by two-thirds, thanks to economic growth initiatives and investment in infrastructure, including education. However, the improvements were largely focused in the most populated areas, where the most opportunities already existed. According to the Asian Development Bank, the top one percent of earners have benefitted the most, capturing 17 percent of the national income, while only 14 percent of national income is obtained by the lowest-earning 50 percent of the population.

The Philippines’ income inequality stems from several structural factors. Higher education and job skills development remain out of reach for many. Unequal access to college, and social norms that leave women at a disadvantage, also contribute to persistent inequality. And the geography of this archipelago nation makes the issue even more difficult to solve, as opportunities and natural resources are unevenly distributed.

Communities work to fight poverty in the Philippines.

Understanding the Impact of Family Poverty

Family poverty is not just about financial struggle. It affects every aspect of a household’s well-being. Children who live in poverty are less likely to enroll in school and reach age-appropriate grade levels because their time is needed to help the family strive to meet their basic daily subsistence needs. This stifles their access to higher education and the future opportunities it would bring, limiting earning potential, the potential economic growth of families, and the possibility of community development.

Children attend school in the Philippines.

Managing Resources: Addressing Poverty in High Population Areas

Population density has a significant impact on poverty in the Philippines. High-population areas often struggle to manage limited natural and government resources, which negatively impacts quality of life. And a lack of job opportunities in densely populated areas contributes to poverty rates. These challenges trickle into remote areas, making it even more difficult for rural communities and marginalized people to break their own unending cycle of poverty.

Living Conditions and Resource Challenges

Living conditions in densely populated areas of the Philippines are affected by resource scarcity and inadequate government support systems. Access to basic necessities like electricity, safe drinking water, and quality education remains uneven. This scarcity not only limits the potential for development across the nation but also perpetuates inequality. As a result, impoverished communities face daily struggles, making it all the more challenging to break free from the cycle of poverty.

Communities identify access to safe water as an urgent issue in the Philippines.

The Pandemic’s Impact: A Crisis Amplifying Poverty

The COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on poverty in the Philippines. In 2020, the pandemic halted economic growth, leading to even higher unemployment rates. As this trend continued into 2021, poverty rates rose to 18.1 percent (World Bank). This amounts to just under 20 million people. And though the economy continues to recover, this recovery is uneven, with the poorest households benefiting the least. As improvements are bringing many areas back to normal, communities in many remote areas still struggle to bring their economies back to even just the already challenging pre-pandemic levels.

A remote Philippine community gains access to safe water.

One constant struggle for families living in poverty is food insecurity. And according to sources such as the National Library of Medicine, this became even more significant during the pandemic. Almost two-thirds (61.2%) of households experienced moderate to severe food insecurity during the many months of quarantine. And with rising food prices and limited natural resources, vulnerable households often had to limit their food intake. This caused a lack of proper nutrition, particularly for children. Outreach International has implemented an effective method of combating food insecurity for even the most impoverished families. Our partners in OPI have helped community-led organizations develop rice loans. These are low-interest loans of rice or the funds to buy it. And because the communities manage these loans themselves, borrowers can avoid predatory outside lending institutions and can deal with people they know and trust.

Community-led rice loans are a brilliant solution for fighting poverty in the Philippines.

Initiatives That Changed the Reality

In response to the challenges posed by the pandemic, both the Philippine government and organizations like Outreach International have implemented various initiatives to alleviate poverty and its effects. Some organizations have provided health services and relief assistance to affected communities. Such initiatives are essential in mitigating the immediate impact of the crisis and helping vulnerable populations in the short term.

Community-led organizations in the Philippines work tirelessly to solve their poverty-related issues.

But Outreach International also focuses on more long-term and sustainable initiatives that can forever break the cycle of poverty. Our methodology of community-led development allows people who live in chronic poverty to learn that they have the power within themselves to improve their lives permanently. Our partners in the Philippines, Outreach Philippines Incorporated (OPI), work with leaders in communities to identify their own unique poverty-related issues, and then mobilize to solve them. They learn how to develop networks with government agencies and NGOs that are able to provide resources. And they learn how to set ever-increasing goals of improvement, leading to continuous development that is sustainable for generations.

Join the Cause: How You Can Help

You can choose to play a role in alleviating poverty in the Philippines. And there are so many ways to help, from donating to Outreach International to fundraising to volunteering. By working together, we can collectively make a difference in the lives of those affected by poverty in the Philippines.