The Philippine social pension at four years: Insights and recommendations

Charles Knox-Vydmanov, Daniel Horn , and Aura Sevilla


This study provides lessons in two key areas for assessing the progress of the Philippine social pension: (a) impact of the scheme, and (b) implementation, specifically targeting and validation. Findings suggest the scheme provides invaluable support recipients, but needs to do more to reach the most vulnerable older people, improve targeting and ensure methods of delivery are appropriate. The study also calls for a reconsideration of the benefit level.

The study used both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. Focus group discussions involved current recipients and waitlisted non-recipients in three different areas: rural, highly urbanised and rural-island. Expert interviews with programme implementer, a key informant interview with a specialist complemented this. Purposive sampling identified 301 older people for the quantitative component.

Targeting: Characteristics of those selected for the scheme suggest high levels of vulnerability related to old age. However, it is unclear whether those who have been targeted are the most vulnerable within their age group. The majority (two-thirds) of older people surveyed look to their families for economic support. The analysis suggests that the difference between those recipients who were prioritised earlier and those waitlisted appears insignificant.

Impact: Findings suggest the social pension is having a meaningful impact on the income and expenditure of recipients, although at PhP 500 per month, it is still below the level necessary to ensure older people can meet their basic needs. It constituted – on average – almost a third of household income, suggesting that it makes an important contribution to these households. While the destination of household expenditure did not differ greatly between recipients and non-recipients in broad terms, recipients reported that they were more likely to have enough money for food than non-recipients, and spent a higher share on health than non-recipients.

Implementation: There are a number of targeting and validation issues that need to be addressed. In particular, implementers highlighted the limitations of using the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR) to identify the poorest senior citizens, who were often not event on registered. Further, there are no clear guidelines for how implementers should interpret the definition of the poorest senior citizens used. Other issues include the need to increase awareness of the scheme and to re-assess practicality of administering pension at city-level, which means older people must go through a time-consuming and costly process.

Recommendations are made based on findings from the study and include:

  • considering an increase in the benefit level of the scheme to ensure recipients can meet basic needs.
  • broadening the definition currently used to identify vulnerable older people and clarifying guidance on how to interpret it so the process is better systematised.
  • increasing awareness among target populations.
  • improving the method of delivery to avoid transportation costs and risks.


Knox-Vydmanov, C., Horn, D., & Sevilla, A. (2016). The Philippine social pension at four years: Insights and recommendations. Metro Manila and London: Coalition of Services of the Elderly and HelpAge International.