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Economic Classes in the Philippines

I have been asked by some readers to discuss the income classes (levels) in the Philippines. This is more difficult to classify since I am not an economist and have access to the incomes of the populace.

As I wrote previously, Filipinos need fewer comforts as most foreigners are accustomed to needing. Just as Americans are accustomed to things Europeans are not, such as Air conditioning. Most Americans are used to bigger homes, bigger rooms and each child in a house having their own room or possibly at the most, two children sharing a room.

Now back to class structure. Even though I have lived in the Philippines for over two years, I have not visited many homes of Filipinos. I have been in homes of a poorer and smaller size. These homes were of some of the construction friends I have.

One in particular is a small two-room home with a CR. Each room is about 10 feet by 12 feet. In this home, there are two adults and four children. I would say they are a poorer type family, but the man works and the wife has a small Sari-Sari store in front of their house.

When you are out about town, you see most Filipinos well dressed and cleanly groomed. They work in the mall, a restaurant or an office. What we do not see is their living conditions. The pride of Filipinos keeps them well dressed. However, at their break time you see them in the small Caranderias spending about 20 pesos for their lunches.
You also need to realize, I am discussing from my experience living in a city, I have little or no experience visiting the provinces where people farm for their existence.
From what I have found on my research, the top 1% of the population earned in a year is more than the bottom 30% of the population earned combined. Also more than 30% of the population earns less than needed to sustain a family.

Many houses are over stuffed with members of their extended family with only one or two income earners. They sustain mostly on rice and carbohydrates with little protein or vegetables. This is because the extended family is never turned away when in need.

You might be wondering when I am going to answer the description of the economic classes here, but for me, this is something I am not qualified to answer. All I can say is no matter how poor the masses are, they are mostly the kindest and welcoming population I have met.

17 Responses to “Economic Classes in the Philippines”

  1. Hi there Bruce, I had a few races again reading most of your articles! I only jump those about card games, hehe. As usual very interesting reading. Even though I dont live in the Philippines it feels like my second home after 7 times there since 2005. I didnt make it to Mindanao the last trip a few months ago, but I miss Mindanao so much.
    I find this topic about economic classes very interesting. In Sweden I think the thinking is very similar to the states when it comes to comfort levels. But myself I live in a 1 room with kitchen and shower with toilet and pay 3186 SEK = 440 USD. With the rest of the bills and a nice car and all the taxes we have here, I can get by on 1500 USD/month. As I live in the city center, I dont need a car, so it is a luxury thing to have one like me. When I had a job I made 3500 USD after tax so I could save 2000 USD at its best per month which is quite a lot. Why I am talking about my Swedish costs is because I get very doubtful when I hear of foreigners that say that it is not possible to live in the Philippines on 1000 USD per month. I have heard that a lot. I am for sure living in one of the most expensive countries in the world!
    It seems that what you pay in rent is the most important in the Philippines. Cheap rent means cheap living there. I have seen places (houses) in Visayas for rent at 3500 pesos a month with aircondition in the bedroom and quite good standard.
    My post is a bit messy. I just wanted to say that I enjoy reading here a lot, and the topics are great!

  2. Gene and Viol Davis says:

    Hi Bruce and Stefan,

    Good post and interesting subject matter. I also have for seven years living in the Philippines have tried to figure the different classes and income levels.
    I finally gave up as there are just too many. We hang out with farmers that hardly have enought food to feed their families, mayors and police officals and all classes in between. What I do notice is a sense of happiness in all the classes that money just can’t buy. Maybe that is one of the reasons I stay here and refuse to return to the states where everyone is in deep debt and the motto of life is “he who dies with the most toys wins.”

    My wife, child, and I are waiting for about four more years for my US social security to begin. Until then, we are living on only aprox $163.00–(one hundred sixty three dollars-US) per month.

    We have to be careful for sure. But our 2nd grade daughter is able to attend a private school, we eat very well, want for nothing, and quite probably spend a little too much money and the new Ayala Marquee Mall in Angeles city from time to time.

    But unlike living in the states, we have no real debt either. Our only bill other than utilities and internet are our soon to end monthly payments on our new 155cc motorcycle.

    As I have mentioned to Bruce in the past, our living standards are quite low to keep our cost of living down. That way we are able to travel as we please and truly enjoy life.

    Just takes a bit of getting use to. Our home is paid for but is located in a Mt Pinatubo resettlement. No air conditioning and the roof of the house is metal like on a farm chicken coup.
    But it’s home and I love it. People here are mostly uneducated and primitive. But still that gentle and friendly attitude is here.

    So yes, it is possile to live here and ENJOY life to the fullest on very little as long as one is determined to adjust…

    • Bruce says:

      You need to be commended. I do not know how you do it. It is true I live in the city and have 6 people living in my house. With the food, utilities, tuition’s and daily expenses, we have a larger cost. But for you with a child in private school, internet and other expensis, I do not know how you do it.

    • Jay Petty says:

      Gene and Viol,

      I appreciate your responce. I know the economy is very difficult. I am currently in my 40’s and would like to visit the Phillipines. I am an E.R doctor here in the states and would like also to do some volunteer medicine. I plan to visit Palawan by years end. If you have any information about medical missions there please let me know.


  3. rich says:

    You are spot on Bruce, when you see most Filipinos in public they are wearing their “Sunday best” or pretty close to it. I have been in my fair share of local homes and you assessment is pretty good.

    Here is a link from a cursory search

    Position Level Min Average Max
    Ass. Manager/Manager 15,000.00 16,000.00 20,000.00
    Supervisor / 5 Years & Up Experienced Employee
    12,000.00 15,000.00 18,000.00
    1-4 Years Experienced Employee
    9,300.00 11,000.00 14,000.00
    Fresh Grad / < 1 Year Experienced Employee
    7,800.00 10,000.00 12,000.00

    Office Staff
    Position Level Min Average Max
    1-4 Years Experienced Employee
    8,000.00 9,000.00 10,000.00
    Fresh Grad / < 1 Year Experienced Employee
    7,500.00 8,000.00 9,042.00

    Techinical Support Engineer
    Position Level Min Average Max
    Supervisor / 5 Years & Up Experienced Employee
    15,000.00 18,000.00 25,000.00
    1-4 Years Experienced Employee
    12,000.00 15,000.00 18,000.00
    Fresh Grad / < 1 Year Experienced Employee
    10,000.00 11,000.00 13,000.00
    Position Level Min Average Max
    1-4 Years Experienced Employee
    8,000.00 9,900.00 12,000.00
    Fresh Grad / < 1 Year Experienced Employee
    7,600.00 9,000.00 10,000.00

    Position Level Min Average Max
    Assistant Manager / Manager
    20,000.00 30,000.00 40,000.00
    Supervisor / 5 Years & Up Experienced Employee
    15,000.00 18,000.00 25,000.00
    1-4 Years Experienced Employee
    12,000.00 15,000.00 18,000.00

  4. Gene, Very good post and it is amazing that you can live on that. If I am alone, one person, I should be able to make it on 500 USD per month right?:) I have tripled your monthly average. I am also very tired of the kind of life people live here, and also my own. I have never been looking to be very rich or having the latest things. I have some savings, but I am not sure I can live on them until I get some retirement money in about 25 years or so 🙂 I have no debts at all and I am renting an apartment here so it is easy for me to pack up and leave.

  5. maria says:

    my hat’s off to gene indeed. im a runner and i just spent a little over half his budget on a pair of running shoes that was on clearance, i thought i was getting a deal (LOL) i dont skimp on my running shoes. how could i live there on his budget if i just spent half on shoes? i run to be healthy. again, my hats off to you gene.

    • Bruce says:

      In America we spend more for things then a Filipino family lives for a month. But in America the pay scale is better too with laws to protect the employees.

  6. Francis says:

    I commend Stefan for making your choice to live in the Philippines. It’s a best move to go to a less develop country after years of working on an industrialized one. You can be assured you can live comfortably here. But always bear in mind that you need to stay safe yourself, be smart, as there are always people who will trick you. Rest is ok, live your life to the fullest

    • Bruce says:

      Stefan is from Sweden and just visits the Philippines. I am Bruce and I live here. Living comfortably here is relative on what you need, but it is cheaper than America or Europe.

  7. paulo says:

    can someone please give me an idea on the 600K annual income in davao. How many are earning 600K pesos per annum in Davao. Thanks.

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