Listahanan, or the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR), is an information management system that employs geographic targeting, household assessment, and validation in order to provide national government agencies, development partners, and other social protection actors with information on who and where the poor are in the Philippines. This information is then used for the identification and selection of potential beneficiaries for various poverty alleviation and social protection programs.
Background and Problem
The DSWD has relied in the past on program-specific targeting mechanisms, which employed varied and often inconsistent methods—an approach which was short on uniformity and objectivity, and often relied on self-declared data from potential beneficiaries. This lack of standardization meant inefficiency and high costs, as each new program would have to bring its own targeting approach to bear. Results were also unsatisfactory, with cases of leakage (the inclusion of non-poor beneficiaries) and deprivation (the exclusion of poor beneficiaries) in the delivery of services to the poor. This, coupled with limited resources, means that ensuring the equitable distribution of services to the poor through a standardized, accurate, and reliable targeting system is essential in addressing poverty.
Solution and Impact
NHTS-PR reduces both the leakage and deprivation of social protection programs and services by establishing an objective targeting system that compiles information to create a database of identified poor families and households. Utilizing a unified set of criteria for identifying the poor ensures that resources and efforts are concentrated on those who most need assistance, ensuring lower costs, better impact, and increased transparency and credibility of social protection programs. The identification of poor households follows a four-phase project cycle.
This begins with the Preparatory Phase where target areas for household assessment and the appropriate data collection strategies are identified. This is followed by the Data Collection and Analysis Phase. During this phase, DSWD-hired enumerators conduct household interviews to gather basic and socio-economic information through a standardized questionnaire called the Household Assessment Form (HAF), which is then processed through a proxy means test (PMT) that estimates family income and compares it to the provincial poverty threshold. For the last phases, the results of the PMT are then validated locally, finalized, compiled, and generated into National and Regional Profiles of the Poor. Data sharing partnerships with various social protection stakeholders are established through a memorandum of agreement to ensure data privacy and to guarantee that the data will only be used as guide for selecting beneficiaries and developing various poverty alleviation and social welfare and development programs.
In 2009, the NHTS-PR conducted the first round of assessment which resulted to the identification of 5,255,118 poor out of 10,909,456 households assessed. In 2010, Executive Order No. 867 entitled, “Providing for the Adoption of the National Targeting System for Poverty Reduction as the Mechanism for Identifying Poor Households Who Shall Be Recipients of Social Protection Programs Nationwide” was issued. This mandated government agencies to use the NHTS-PR data as basis for selecting beneficiaries of their social protection programs. The data generated from the first assessment were shared with 1,256 data users comprising of 55 National Government Agencies (NGAs), 1,095 Local Government Units (LGUs), 56 Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), 34 legislators, and 15 academic institutions and researchers. NHTS-PR became the basis for selecting beneficiaries of notable government programs such as the PhilHealth Indigent Program and Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps). The former subsidized the insurance premium of all 5.2 million poor households while the latter provided health and education grants to 4.2 million. These are only among social protection programs that provided targeted services to the poor in the fields as diverse as education, employment, health and nutrition, maternal and childcare, water and sanitation, shelter, electricity, and environmental protection. NHTS-PR is also supported by international partners such as the World Bank and the Australian Department of Trade and Industry.
In compliance with Section 2 of EO 867 which requires the DSWD to update the NHTS-PR every four years, the Department embarked on its second nationwide assessment. In preparation for the said assessment, new guidelines, protocols and systems were put in place to maintain transparency and objectivity, ensure faster and efficient implementation, and prevent political interference in its implementation. A new PMT model was also developed using variables lifted from the 2009 Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES), Labor Force Survey (LFS), and 2007 Census of Population and Housing (CPH). It features a 2nd stage screener that weeds out possible inclusion errors. These improvements in the PMT model lowered its model-based error rates, from having 22-25% and 31-35% inclusion and exclusion rates, respectively, in the 2009 model to having 10.6-13.8% and 6.8-19.3% inclusion and exclusion rates in the 2013 model. The said assessment resulted in the identification of 5.1 million poor out of 15.1 million households assessed.
With the result of second assessment, the Department was able to track changes in the status of previously identified poor households, particularly of 4Ps beneficiaries. Of the 4.2 million beneficiaries of the said program, 1.3 million households registered as non-poor. After two assessment cycles, the NHTS-PR data continues to be a vital information resource for the government, providing an objective basis for beneficiary selection and a rich data resource for planning, developing and monitoring program interventions.
Excerpt from the Country Director of the World Bank Philippines, Dr. Mara Warwick, during her Remarks at the 2015 Listahanan Launch
“Grounded in empirical studies, the World Bank recognizes Listahanan as a leading “good practice example” for a growing number of countries that aspire to introduce such registries. This brings me back to my original question: why is Listahanan so important? I would like to highlight four key reasons. First, by enabling the Government to target programs to the poor and vulnerable, Listahanan is increasing both the efficiency and effectiveness of public spending. It is also improving the governance of Social Protection in the Philippines by removing political patronage from distribution of public resources to citizens. Let me elaborate. Listahanan tells the Government who poor families are and where they live. It ensures that the intended beneficiaries of public funds for poverty reduction have names and faces. This enables objective selection of the beneficiaries of government programs through the use of transparent, objective and verifiable criteria, validated by the community, to estimate poverty in Filipino families. Using the so called “proxy means test method,” poverty lines determined by the Philippines Statistics Service and community validation, Listahanan 2015 has identified 5.1 million households who are poor.
Targeting anti-poverty programs to those 5.1 million households will be critical to realizing the aspiration to end poverty in the Philippines within a generation. Listahanan is the key platform for such targeting, just as Listahanan 2010 was used to identify beneficiaries of government programs. Second, Listahanan is important because its impact is far-reaching across the Philippines. Listahanan is currently used by 59 national agencies to target programs where they are needed most, including the Pantawid, and the PhilHealth subsidized health insurance. It enables transparent and fair selection of beneficiaries of government programs. How? Programs draw initial lists of poor and vulnerable families from Listahanan, and the families are then checked for program specific eligibility requirements. When the families meet the requirements, they receive the benefits. In addition to Pantawid and PhilHealth, Listahanan is also used by 1,095 Local Government Units, 56 Civil Society Organizations, 34 legislators, and 15 universities and research institutions.
Looking ahead, we hope that Listahanan 2015 will add value to all government agencies and LGUs towards maximizing the impact of public funding and ensuring that the poor and vulnerable benefit from their respective programs. Third, Listahanan is important because of what it means for all citizens. Listahanan is an anchor for an objective and transparent approach to selecting beneficiaries. Such transparency is important for citizens, affecting how people perceive their government. Citizens are able to see that public funding and government services are deployed fairly, rather than as gifts or as favors. This in turn signals an important shift and the beginnings of a deeper transformation in state-society relations: people start seeing government services as public goods rather than as personal rewards.
Fourth, as I mentioned before, Listahanan is important because its targeting performance is excellent by international standards based on the available empirical evidence. While there is no such thing as perfect targeting, the tool that you have developed does an excellent job in identifying the poor and vulnerable. Listahanan is supporting impressive results and must continue to evolve and adapt over time for even greater impact.”