Elmer Labog

NSO: Ranks of jobless down but …

NSO: Ranks of jobless down but …
By Leila Salaverria, Ronnel Domingo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Here’s the good news: the number of jobless Filipinos went down partly due to election-related activities.

The bad news is that the underemployment rate went up, data from the January 2010 Labor Force Survey showed.

The National Statistics Office (NSO) Tuesday reported that the number of unemployed dropped by about 100,000 in the first month of the year, compared to the same period in 2009.

There were 2.8 million unemployed in January, down from the 2.9 million recorded last year, according to the NSO.

This pushed down the unemployment rate to 7.3 percent from 7.7 percent. The October 2009 unemployment rate was 7.1 percent.

Among the regions, only Metro Manila posted a double-digit unemployment rate of 10.8 percent, NSO Administrator Carmelita Ericta said in a statement.

The unemployment rate does not include those who are no longer looking for work because they are resigned to not finding one.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Augusto B. Santos said election-related activities possibly contributed to the increase in the number of jobs in the service and industry sectors.

Santos, also director general of the National Economic and Development Authority, said employment generation more than tripled to 1.73 million in January from 569,000 in January last year.

He noted that the number of new jobs was more than the number of new labor entrants, estimated at 1.71 million.

“The Philippine labor market posted a strong performance amid the global economic crisis, the lingering impact of the destructive typhoons late last year and the damage caused by the El Niño phenomenon in the second half of 2009,” Santos said.


While unemployment eased a bit, the underemployment rate went up.

The underemployed refer to those who want to have additional work hours, an additional job, or a new job with longer working hours.

The NSO placed the number of underemployed at 7.1 million, equivalent to an underemployment rate of 19.7 percent, up from last year’s 18.2 percent.

Of the underemployed, 4 million were considered “visibly underemployed” or working less than 40 hours a week. Most of the underemployed belonged to the agriculture and services sector.

Part-time workers comprised 34.2 percent of the employed.

Most of 15-24 age group jobless

Of the jobless Filipinos, 64.6 percent were males. Most (51.5 percent) were in the 15 to 24 age group. A third (33.1 percent) of the unemployed were high school graduates. College undergraduates accounted for 19.3 percent and college graduates 18.5 percent of the jobless.

The NSO said there were 36 million people with jobs, a 5-percent increase over last year’s 34.3 million.

The biggest group of those with work (32.7 percent) consisted of laborers and unskilled workers. Farmers, forestry workers and fishermen represented the second largest group (15.4 percent).

Repair of motorcycles

More than half (52.4 percent) of the workers were in the services sector, according to the NSO. It said the bulk of the increase in the number of employed Filipinos came from those employed in wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles, including motorcycles, and personal and household goods.

The agriculture sector was second in terms of having the biggest number of workers at 32.8 percent. The industry sector had 14.8 percent.

Unpaid family workers

More than half of the Filipinos with jobs (55.8 percent) were considered wage and salary workers, while more than a third (33.6 percent) were own account workers. The unpaid family workers made up 10.6 percent of the total.

“With the economy on the right track to economic rebound complemented by a good labor market situation, the Philippines must swiftly address challenges that derail its path toward becoming a globally competitive economy,” Santos said.

Santos said rehabilitation and reconstruction of infrastructure must be fast-tracked as this would mitigate the impact of El Niño and avert water and electricity distribution problems—all of which pose a threat to employment and livelihood.

Still too high

To a militant labor group, the 7.3-percent unemployment rate was still too high.

“Job-generating programs initiated by the Arroyo administration in the past could not really ease the rising number of unemployed, since jobs under these programs are temporary. Those employed three or six months ago may actually be jobless today. There’s no job security under this regime,” said Elmer Labog, chair of Kilusang Mayo Uno.

Labog said the NSO data showed a steady rise in the number of workers in the services sector, indicating that there was a growth in the number of contractual employees.

Poor-quality work

A research foundation said the country’s employment picture was at its worst in 2009, with around 64.4 percent to 81 percent of the 39.4-million labor force that year either jobless or in poor-quality work.

Ibon Foundation said the average unemployment rate for 2001-2009 was 11.2 percent, the country’s worst nine-year period of sustained high joblessness since 1956.

Unemployment rates were much lower in 1956-1960 (8 percent), 1961-1970 (7.3 percent), 1971-1980 (5.4 percent), 1981-1990 (10.2 percent) and 1991-2000 (9.8 percent).

Although statistics showed that 35.06 million were employed in 2009, the figure included 4.22 million “unpaid family workers” and 12.16 million “own-account workers” covering those in the informal sector work, Ibon said in a statement.

It said the category “wage and salary workers,” which implied job security and stability, included another layer of poor-quality work: 4.67 million non-regular wage and salary workers or those with casual, contractual, probationary and apprentice or seasonal status, and 11.21 million wage and salary workers employed but with only verbal contracts or none at all.