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Is the Philippines a Third World country? Two Faces of the Philippines

The Philippines is perceived as one of the friendliest countries in the world that makes its visitors feel as if it’s their “second home”.

Hospitality is undoubtedly one of the biggest assets of Filipinos.

Filipinos are famous for being welcoming, and for this reason, the Philippines constantly ranks as one of the friendliest countries in the world.

Yet, despite being a dream vacation spot for many tourists, the Philippines suffers from poverty, and it is not one of the developed economies. 

The Philippines is a third world country by modern and old definitions. The Philippines economy suffers from widespread corruption, lack of education, poor health structure, and a weak judiciary.

As a result, the country is classified as a developing economy and struggles with slow or moderate economic growth, unemployment, and poverty.

On the other hand, The Philippines is a great place to live for internationals. The cost of living is low, government support for expats is excellent. 

The Philippines’ private education system is comparable to far more developed economies like Hong Kong or Singapore, and last but not least, it’s a beautiful country.

In this post, we will tell you all the good and bad faces of the Philippines. Let’s start..

The Philippines – El Nido Source
Poverty in Philippines Source

Why is the Philippines considered a Third World Country?

“Third world country” is a term used during the Cold War in 1947-1989. It was subdivided into 3 categories: 

  • “the first world” whose views aligned with the United States; 
  • “the second world” whose political views aligned with the Soviet Union; and 
  • “The third world” which was neither an ally of the US nor the Soviet Union.

Today, “third world country” refers to countries usually associated with high poverty rates. 

Characteristics of a third world country include economic instability, underdevelopment, high mortality rates, and lack of basic human necessities like food, water, shelter, and proper health care.

The Philippines is a third world country by modern and old definitions. The Philippines has many fronts to cover.  Corruption, poverty, poor health system, high infant mortality rate, and a low GDP per capita are just a few issues that hinder the country from becoming first world or even a second or country.

 Philippines Quick Facts

Where is the Philippines?

The Philippines is an island country in Southeast Asia in the Western Pacific Ocean and consists of approximately 7640 islands.

The country shares maritime borders with Taiwan to the north, Japan to the northeast, Palau to the east and southeast, Indonesia to the south, Malaysia and Brunei to the southwest, Vietnam to the west, and China to the northwest.

Philippines Map
Land Area300,000 km2 (120,000 sq mi) (similar to Italy and Poland. A little bigger than Texas.)
Population109 million people and is at 47th place of the most populated countries in the world. Source
CapitalManila (Population 1,5 Million)
Biggest CityQuezon City (Population 3 Million)
Official Languages and Languages Spoken in the PhilippinesFilipino and  English are the official languages.
19 regional languages, Spanish and Arabic are also recognized as regional languages.
Religion89% Christianity, and 6% Islam
Income Per Capita (Nominal)$3,646 (2021)
Income Per Capita (Purchasing Power)$9,061 (2021) 
Some facts about the Philippines
The Philippine Peso or “Piso” in Filipino is the country’s official currency.

Why are the Philippines considered a developing country?

Philippines’ GDP per capita in 2020 was at around 3,323 USD whereas compared to a highly developed country like the United States, the GDP per capita amounted to 64,254 USD in 2019

The main contributors to slow economic growth are inequality of income, lack of management during crisis times, inflation, and an underdeveloped agricultural sector.

For these reasons, like other developing countries, a significant amount of the Philippines ’ population lacks basic human necessities like food, water, shelter, and health care. 

Major obstacles in the Philippines’ way to economic success

The Philippines plays a major role when it comes to the outsourcing industry and on top of that, it’s been a magnet for many tourists and visitors from around the world boosting its tourism sector. 

The country has so much potential to grow and offer, yet remains a third-world country but why?

Let us further analyze what exactly hinders the Philippines from becoming a developed country.

1.) Corruption

The Republic of the Philippines has a widespread problem of corruption.

According to Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perception Index, the Philippines tied with Moldova at 115th place, closely followed by Egypt, Eswatini, Zambia, Nepal, Sierra Leone, and Ukraine.

Evidence suggests that the Philippines suffering from corruption may have developed during the Spanish colonial period from 1565 to 1898.

Corruption affects many sectors of Filipinos and keeps flourishing throughout the country’s inconsistent and weak judicial system, police and public services, land administration, and natural resources.

As a result, the country stays stuck in its development towards a second or first world country with minimum progress.

2.) Poverty

The Philippines suffers from extensive poverty triggered by a wide spectrum of factors of which lack of education, unemployment, and a deficiency in basic human necessities are a few. 

Data indicates that about 17 million people suffer from the poverty of which those living in rural areas experience it to a much higher extent.

Furthermore, the country is extremely prone to natural disasters like typhoons, cyclones, and earthquakes which create devastating damage and increase the poverty rate even more.

Moreover, the Philippines also lacks proper healthcare. 1000 newborns 28 die before even turning 5.

Additionally, data of 2019 shows that approximately 64% of Filipino households suffer from food insecurity.

On top of that, the COVID-19 pandemic affected every aspect of life, specifically food access due to economic destruction and financial complications.

However, the Filipino Government as well as national and international NGOs launched numerous plans and initiatives to fight against poverty and hunger in the country. 

Plans like the Philippines Development Plan that was launched back in 2011 and updated in 2017 and a group called Zero Extreme Poverty PH 2030 (ZEP) was dedicated to combating poverty at its roots.

These initiatives reported tremendous success in poverty reduction, job creation, and education as well as positive changes in terms of health, housing and shelter, livelihoods, environment, peace, human security, and justice.

3.) Lack of education

Education is not free in the Philippines making it an ongoing struggle for poor families who are not able to provide it to their children.

A significant lack of learning assets, shortage of classrooms and teachers along with social divisions, and the absence of a budget for education are some of the numerous factors that hinder the country’s ability to improve its literacy rates.

But despite these issues, the Philippines’ education system is still one of the most developed and competitive ones in the entire Asian region. 

Philippines’ statistics of basic education completion, higher education participation, and adult literacy in general, are surprisingly comparable to more developed economies like South Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

4.) Unemployment

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) in September 2021, the unemployment rate was at 8.9% which is equivalent to 4.25 million Filipinos.

5.) Crime

Crime in the Philippines is one of the worries every Filipino is concerned about, particularly those living in larger cities.

Data indicates that the Philippines’ capital region experienced a monthly crime rate of 90.7 per 100,000 people which makes it quite challenging for the police to maintain order and security due to such an increase in crime.

The most prevalent crimes are theft, illegal drug trade, human trafficking, arms trafficking, and domestic violence.

6.) Slow economic growth

The economy of the Philippines ranks at 34th place among the largest economies by nominal GDP and the 12th largest economy in Asia.

This newly industrialized country has an economy primarily based on two sectors; agriculture alongside services & manufacturing.

Despite being one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies, major problems such as reducing corruption, income and growth disparities between different regions and socioeconomic classes, and lack of investment in infrastructure prevent the country’s necessary future growth.

In addition to that, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic puts the Philippines at risk of “long-term economic scarring” with a GDP expected to slow down to 6% after 2022.

7.) Environmental issues

Being a country located in the Pacific Ring of Fire it is quite prone to natural disasters like volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. Plus, since the country is extensively surrounded by water, the Philippines experiences devastating typhoons causing severe damage.

Other environmental issues are landslides, coastal erosion, wildlife extinction, deforestation, dynamite fishing, illegal mining and logging as well as pollution, and climate change.

Travelling Philippines can be one of the best experiences in your life. Source

Is the Philippines safe?

The Philippines is undoubtedly a beautiful vacation spot offering natural beauty at its best. 

From gorgeous white sand beaches and majestic lush mountains to picturesque islands, and stunning volcanoes, the Philippines will bring you lifelong memories.

However, like other countries, there are places in the Philippines that are considered safe while others are better to avoid. 

It is important to be aware of possible threats when traveling or residing in a place, but to label, the whole country as dangerous would be inappropriate.

According to the 2021 Global Peace Index, the Philippines were at 127th place out of 163 countries.

In general, the Philippines is a safe country if you avoid possible dangers and stay cautious as you should be in any country.

Is the Philippines a good place to live?

The Philippines has been a famous vacation spot for many decades and a country of choice to move to permanently.

The exotic country offers a low cost of living, welcoming English-speaking locals, spectacular sceneries, and not to mention beautiful weather. All makes the Philippines an attractive choice to consider.

Furthermore, others have experienced a better balance between life and work and get the opportunity to afford more life luxuries like properties, domestic staff, swimming pools, etc. as compared to their home place.

Additionally, a lot of people stated that the Filipino language is pretty easy to learn and master due to it being a phonetic language (written form = spoken form). 

Plus, the majority of Filipinos own good English skills eliminating a possible language barrier for newcomers.

To wrap it all up, the Philippines is a great place to live considering the fact that the cost of living is low, and government support for expats is excellent.

Lake, Coron, Philippines. Source

What is the Philippines famous for?

The Philippines is home to some of the most mind-blowing and exotic landmarks in Southeast Asia. 

From stunning tropical islands and beaches to an abundance of fruits and its stunningly vibrant culture, the Philippines has for sure a huge diversity to offer.

1.) Beautiful landscapes

The Philippines is renowned for its mesmerizing landmarks and undeniable natural beauty. Every year, more and more tourists and locals are drawn to its beautiful places and discover one stunner after the other.

Gorgeous white beaches, amazing rock formations, coral reefs, and dive sites, clear aquamarine waters along picturesque rice terraces.

The famous landscapes of the chocolate hills – the Philippines will make you go wow over and over again.

El Nido, Tubbataha Reefs, CoronBanaue Rice Terraces, Chocolate Hills, Boracay, and Mount Mayon are some of the top places to visit in the Philippines.

Boracay, Malay, Philippines. Source

2.) Filipino food that makes you drool

Filipino food is most definitely the next thing to look out for in the culinary world. The country’s diverse cultural influences, unique cooking techniques, and Filippinos’ skill of making the best out of any ingredient give you bombs of flavor and exquisite dishes that are simply delicious.

These are some of the most famous Filipino dishes you have to try:

  • Adobo – A very popular Philippine fish or meat stew served with rice.
  • Kare Kare – A stew made of peanut sauce and oxtail or other meaty beef cuts served with a raw seafood paste called bagoong.
  • Sinigang – A sour broth made from tangy tamarind, different veggies, and a meat of choice. It’s also considered to be a Pinoy Classic.
  • Pancit Guisado – A sautéed noodle dish accompanied by sliced veggies and meat, all cooked together in broth, fish sauce, and soy sauce.
  • Silog – A hearty Filipino breakfast dish consisting of egg, meat, and garlic fried rice
  • Kilawin – A famous Filipino appetizer also known as the Filipino ceviche, where Seafood like tuna is cured in vinegar and calamansi (Philippine lemon) mixed together with some onions and chili for more complexity)
  •  Fried Lumpia – Deep-fried rolls filled with minced meat and vegetables served alongside a sweet and sour dipping sauce. It is also known to be the Pinoy’s version of Chinese egg rolls.

3.) Filipinos treat English as a second language

Not many might know about this but as a foreigner in the Philippines, you won’t have much of a “language-barrier issue”.

Besides Filipino as the official language, English is treated just as its second language. Almost everyone in the Philippines knows English to some extent, of which others are even fluent.

Sinulog Festival, Source

4.) Vibrant Festivals and Fiestas

Festivals in the Philippines are a reflection of its rich and vibrant culture and pay tribute to its history.

These festivals are big, colorful, and are celebrated in all their glory and spectacle. The multi-colored vivid costumes, exciting music, captivating festival dances, and fun activities offer an experience to never forget.

Some of the most popular festivals are the following:

  • Sinulog Festival – A religious festival celebrated every January in Cebu.
  • Ati-Atihan Festival – A unique and one-of-a-kind festival in Aklan.
  • Panagbenga Festival – The Philippines’ famous flower festival
  • Pahiyas Festival – An exceptionally colorful Filipino festival where tourists are able to enjoy free food. It is held in Lucban, Quezon.
  • Tuna Festival – A very fun festival all about tuna fish
  • Higantes Festival – A festivity where you can witness giant paper mache do the festival dance

5.) Cultural diversity

The culture of the Philippines is remarkably diverse due to its complex history and an interesting combination of different cultures.

Cultures like Spain, China, India, the Arabs, and the United States have left their imprint on the Philippines’ culture which is noticeable throughout various practices of the Filipinos.

  • The Spanish language, Catholicism, and colorful fiestas were brought by the Spaniards, 
  • China brought trade and business along with the importance of respect and family,
  •  the Arabs and Indians introduced Islam to the southern part of the country as well as their customs and traditions and
  • The United States influenced the country by the use of the English language plus its contemporary pop culture like music, media, fast-food, and movies.

However, besides its historical influences by other countries, the nation is home to 20 ethnic states, each having its own uniqueness in language and culture.