Conditional Cash Transfers Pay Off in the Philippines

June 10, 2013

  • Poor children often drop out of school and suffer from malnutrition
  • A World-Bank funded program provides cash grants to ensure that poor children are healthy and in school
  • The conditional cash transfer program has positive impacts on the enrollment and school attendance of beneficiaries.

Five years ago, Ellen did not know how to make ends meet for her family who lived in a poor community in Taguig city in the Philippines.  A single parent then because her husband was serving time in jail, she worried about their daily survival and their children’s future.

“It was difficult because I did not have a job and I was the only one my family could depend on,” she recalls.

Today she looks back at how far she and her family have come, particularly her youngest daughter, Joanna, who is now in fifth grade in a public school in Metro Manila.

Investments in Health and Education

As a beneficiary of the government’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, the Pagkalinawan family has been receiving cash grants on the condition that Joanna goes to school regularly. Begun in 2008, 4Ps or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, means “temporary assistance for the Filipino family.” (The colloquial term ‘pantawid gutom’ means to temporarily address or ease hunger.)

The cash grants, which range from Php500 (US$11) to Php1,400 (US$32) per household, are given on the condition that parents send their children to school and have their health checked regularly.

“I buy school supplies and also healthy meals,” 10-year old Joanna says about the daily allowance she gets from her mother, who draws the cash from an automated teller machine. “What I save from my P25-peso (equivalent to US$0.55) daily allowance, I give back to my mother,” she adds.

Joanna’s story affirms a recent World Bank report which found that the program is meeting its objective of keeping young children (3-11 years old) like her in school. It also found that the program also achieved the following:

• Growth monitoring and immunization for young children (0-5 years old)
• Reducing severe stunting among young children (6-36 months old)
• Increasing household investments in health and education

Under the program, parents are also taught how to better take care of their children through regular seminars called Family Development sessions.  The program likewise provides cash grants to poor, pregnant mothers, in exchange for having pre-natal and post-natal check-ups, with their deliveries attended to by health personnel.

Improving Skills

The program, according to Ellen, has encouraged Joanna to attend school regularly and study better.  This was also evident for other project beneficiaries in the same study, which noted an improvement in their enrollment and school attendance, compared with equally poor children who are not benefiting from the program.

Ellen says that Pantawid Pamilya has also helped improve her daughter’s math skills.  A math whiz, Joanna has represented and won recognition for her class and her school in math competitions, along with two team mates.

She says she gets her talent from her dad, who continued giving her tutorial lessons when they visited him in prison on weekends. A row of medals hung on a pole just below the ceiling of their shanty proudly displays her achievements.

“They’re all mine,” beams the 5th grader from Taguig City elementary school, who has earned the admiration of her classmates and teachers. Joanna says she is inspired by both her parents, because “they work hard to send me to school.” 

Despite receiving the grants from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Ellen persevered to find work, as did her husband after serving his jail term, in order to support their family. According to Nazmul Chaudhury, one of the report’s authors and the World Bank’s country sector coordinator for East Asia, this bolsters the finding that 4Ps does not promote a culture of dependency among its beneficiaries.

Funded by the World Bank, the program has shown that its impact in the Philippines is similar with the experience in Latin American countries where conditional cash transfers contributed to poverty reduction.