The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which affirmed commitments of member countries of the United Nations towards reducing poverty and the worst forms of human deprivation, embodies specific targets and milestones for the development of children, i.e., halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than one dollar a day (Goal 1), achieve universal primary education (Goal 2), reduce child mortality (Goal 4), and improve maternal health (Goal 5). In line with this, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has enhanced its organizational commitment by undertaking the Global Study on Child Poverty and Disparities, carried out in 40 countries, including the Philippines, and seven regions in 2007-2008.
One of the objectives of this evidence-based Global Study is to focus on how poverty and disparities impact children to support efforts that protect children from risk, adversity and disadvantage. It proposes to look at gaps and opportunities in national poverty reduction strategies, including the demographic and economic context, employment, public and private social expenditures, fiscal space, and foreign aid. Further, on 10 January 2007, the UN General Assembly defined children living in poverty as those “deprived of nutrition, water and sanitation facilities, access to basic health-care services, shelter, education, participation and protection, and that while a severe lack of goods and services hurts every human being, it is most threatening and harmful to children, leaving them unable to enjoy their rights, to reach their full potential and to participate as full members of the society.”
In the Philippines, the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), per Executive Order No. 352 issued in 1996, Designation of Statistical Activities that will Generate Critical Data for Decision-making of the Government and the Private Sector, is mandated with the generation/release of official provincial poverty statistics of the country. Food and poverty thresholds are available annually, while subsistence and poverty incidence, magnitude of the poor and the subsistence poor, and income gap, poverty gap and severity of poverty are available every three years, since they depend on information from the triennial Family Income and Expenditures Survey (FIES) of the National Statistics Office (NSO).
In line with the NSCB’s efforts to respond to the need/demand for a more disaggregated level of poverty statistics, the NSCB released for the first time, in 2007, official poverty statistics for the basic sectors, including children. This year, with strong support from the UNICEF, the NSCB participated in the International Conference on Rethinking Poverty: Making Policies that Work for Children and the Social Policy Workshop on Global Child Poverty. In connection with its participation in these forums, the NSCB generated lower-level (i.e., provincial level) poverty statistics of children as well as the socio-economic characteristics of poor children.
As children are our nation’s future, the importance of statistics on children including other non-income indicators on children in poverty cannot be overemphasized. In fact, the latest data on Philippine education indicate a definitive deterioration in the quality of human capital of the country. In addition, all three indicators on children of MDG Goal 2 (i.e., net enrolment ratio in primary education, proportion of pupils starting Grade 1 who reach Grade 6, and primary completion rate) show low probabilities of achieving their target by 2015.
In this regard, the Philippine Statistical System (PSS), through the NSCB, deemed that it was absolutely necessary to respond to these concerns through the compilation of multi-dimensional information on children in poverty (e.g., indicators on health, education, labor and unemployment, among others). The Global Study’s Statistical Template was used as the main reference, while allowing for some flexibility to incorporate Philippine-specific development agenda.