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Pandemic impact felt disproportionately by poor

THE PANDEMIC has hit poorer households in the Philippines harder than the rest of the population, affecting their income and food security disproportionately, according to the World Bank.

According to a study conducted by the bank in early August, 47% of heads of household who are still working reported declining income while 65% of those running businesses reported a fall in profits. The study took in more than 9,500 households.

“Over 40% of heads of household across all the income levels reported reduced incomes, with losses being more prevalent among the poorest households,” the World Bank said in a brief on the study findings released last week.

It said across all income groups, 15% of those at the bottom reported zero earnings while only 5% in the richest income groups recorded zero income.

Nearly half of those relying on remittances sent by relatives working abroad received reduced remittances during the period, while 11% received nothing.

One in four heads of household said they were no longer reporting for work. Job losses were the highest in Luzon — where the lockdown was particularly drawn out — while many of them worked in vulnerable industries like construction, accommodations, food services and trade.

The jobless rate, however, was higher among high-income families because the poor were more likely to be engaged in agriculture, which was less affected by the pandemic.

The World Bank reported that 40% of households said they cannot afford to buy essentials like food, with 54% of the poor saying so. Only 26% of the richest households reported the same.

Around 37% of the poorest families said they experienced hunger while 18% experienced an entire day without eating.

“Lack of money and mobility restrictions were among the main reasons constraining households’ capacity to buy food. About three in four households worry about not having enough food and one in three experienced hunger,” it said.

Some 46% of households across all income groups said they did not have enough money to attend to medical needs, while 28% were afraid to contract COVID-19.

Education was also severely disrupted, with only 20% of those who had children in school before the pandemic able to continue doing so during community quarantine. About 80% said they will send their children back to school once they reopen.

The survey was conducted in partnership with the Finance department and the National Economic and Development Authority. It was the first of a series of quarterly surveys conducted by the World Bank to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on Philippine households, with the other rounds scheduled for rollout next year. — Beatrice M. Laforga

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