‘Poor Filipinos are lazy’ and other myths about poverty

April 24, 2018 - 3:02 PM
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A street basketball match in a low income area in Manila. (Marcin Gabruk/Creative Commons BY 2.0)

Are the Filipino poor simply lazy, satisfied with hand-to-mouth existence without working harder? This was what a series of popular tweets by an academic explored and tried to dispel.

Cleve Arguelles, a political science assistant professor at the University of the Philippines Manila, argued that people should not blame the state of poverty on the poor.

Arguelles specializes in comparative politics.

More doors are closed to poor people.

The Economist revealed that the Philippines has the “most persistent poverty” problem in Southeast Asia:

“Over the past three decades, extreme poverty has more than halved in the Philippines by the World Bank’s measure.”

One of the reasons cited for the longstanding poverty is the lack of adequate employment opportunities in rural areas. If more jobs are offered in different regions, people would be more financially secure.

Lack of various employment opportunities in provinces has been cited as one of the reasons why they are less fortunate people in the country. (Philstar/John Unson)

“Growth is concentrated in Manila and the two neighbouring provinces, which generate around 60% of the country’s output,” The Economist reported.

A study by Princeton psychologists Eldar Shafir and Jiaying Zhao also indicates that poverty limits brain function because of distractions that only poor people have.

The work of University of Miami social epidemologist Adina Zeki Al Hazzouri, meanwhile, found that being in poverty for a sustained period has a lasting effect on an individual’s brain.

“We found that individuals who were exposed all the time to poverty over those 20 years perform significantly worse than individuals who are never in poverty,” Al Hazzouri told the BBC’s “The Inquiry.”

This leads us to the issue of contractualization.

Arguelles, whose tweet about poverty became a Twitter hit, wrote that “poor people are more likely to end up with low-paid, low-skilled and insecure jobs.”

Securing a job does not necessarily equate to financial stability. There are, after all, companies that practice contractualization or “endo,” he pointed out.

Endo” prevents a worker from accessing benefits and privileges entitled to a regular employee, including wage that is enough to cover more long-term expenses.

Herbert Docena, a member of Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, said the scheme does not benefit workers nor employers.

Various contractual workers protest contractualization and appeal to the end of ‘ENDO.’ (Philstar/File photo)

He wrote, “Contractualization actually enables capitalists to pay workers less for the same work, stunt economic development, and therefore harm the interests of all Filipinos—including of capitalists themselves.”

Arguelles noted that if the source of income is “insecure,” the individual is also financially “insecure” as well.

This form of insecurity does not take an individual out of the cycle of poverty.