The emerging Philippine middle class

Why (should) the middle class deserve special attention from national policymakers? First, the middle class is typically the largest consumer group in most countries, making it the engine of spending and economic growth. In addition, this group often constitutes most of the entrepreneurial sector of developed economies, leading to job creation and inclusive economic growth through startups and the expansion of small and medium-sized businesses.

The middle class is also a stabilizing force in society—a larger middle class brings greater political stability and less economic inequality, which are, in turn, prerequisites for economic growth.

Finally, the middle class traditionally plays a role in public accountability and wider political participation, through its support of economic governance, property rights, and the rule of law. For these reasons, the success of the middle class is in a sense the success of a nation, and its advancement brings ancillary benefits for other social and economic groups, such as the poor.

This nation caught a glimpse of Philippine middle class in The Million People March against corruption of the PDAF on National Heroes Day. Personally, I am happy that this stratum of Philippine society has finally come out, if initially.  Street protests prior to the March were criticized to have been made up of folks rounded up from poor neighborhoods and paid to protest by politician-backers. The educated middle class on the other hand would not be a cheap sell which is what was demonstrated in the March. People were there of their own accord and with purpose. Young people from the universities who joined the March showed that it is impossible to sit back, listen to, and theorize about democracy and development inside their classrooms and not want to make these things realities for themselves and others. Their confidence to engage their leaders come not from arrogance but from having knowledge of the process available to them as citizens, from an upbringing that taught them to do what’s right, just, and fair, and from a genuine desire to contribute toward a better Philippines. Their presence there was a collective public response to the oft-cited challenge ‘ask what you can do for your country’.

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