Pinoys saving more, spending less on clothes, vacation—survey

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By Judith Balea – As economic uncertainties raise concerns about job security, more Filipinos are opting to fatten their bank accounts or fill up their savings jars with any spare cash they have, a recent survey found.

According to the latest web-based consumer confidence survey by research firm Nielsen, 69 percent of Filipino consumers prefer to put cash left after paying for basic expenses into savings–up 3 percentage points from the 66 percent in the last six months of 2008.

The survey also showed that less consumers are spending their extra money to buy new clothes (35 percent from 39 percent), pay off debts (32 percent from 37 percent) or go out for a vacation (27 percent from 28 percent).

“About 7 out of 10 Filipinos would rather save than spend their spare cash. They are now more prudent,” Nielsen Media Company Phils. Inc. managing director Victoria Santos told a media briefing on Thursday.

Santos said the survey questions were emailed to those in their consumer database. Of the almost 26,000 survey respondents all over the world, 500 were from the Philippines, most of whom, according to Santos, are likely situated in Metro Manila.

Nielsen conducted the survey over the Internet from March 19 to April 2. At the time, popular retail investment products, like pre-need plans and bank deposit products, were being rocked by allegations of fraud in the transactions of Legacy Group-linked financial companies.

A few years ago, similar controversies in the local financial system resulted in the investible funds’ shift to property assets, thus causing a mini-boom in the real estate industry.

Outlook on these investment outlets, however, remain uncertain as the local economy in general continues to ride the global gloom.

Upbeat about now

The Nielsen online survey showed that overall consumer confidence level in the Philippines dropped by 6 points to 96 from the level recorded in the second half of last year.

Yet, the Philippines ranked 6th among 49 countries surveyed. The global average stood at 77, reflecting a 7 point drop, which is the most significant in three years.

“We are more upbeat compared with other markets,” said Santos.

She attributed this to the sustained volume of remittances coming into the country and the weakening of the peso, which increases the value of dollar remittances.

At the same time, she said the strong business process outsourcing sector continues to offer employment opportunities.

Worried about later

Over the next six months, job security and the state of the economy will remain the biggest concerns for Filipino consumers, followed by work-life balance, health and children’s education, according to Nielsen.

It said 8 out of 10 Filipinos now believe the country is in recession, up from the 7 out of 10 in the last six months of 2008.

“An economist’s definition of recession, which is two consecutive quarters of economic decline, is different from that of a man on the street,” Santos explained.

Santos noted that there has been a decline in the confidence of Filipino consumers to spend because they are worried about the impact of the economic crisis on their job prospects and personal finances.

Only 37 percent of Filipinos are optimistic about job prospects this year, down from 48 percent in the second half of 2008. Similarly, those who are upbeat about their personal finances declined to 53 percent from 58 percent.

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