OVER 3.4 million young Filipinos could face an uncertain future if they continue to stay out of school or remain unemployed, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).
The October round of the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) Labor Force Survey (LFS) showed that Filipino youth who were Not in Employment, Education and Training (NEET) had actually dropped to 17.1 percent from last year’s 18.7 percent.
However, Neda Undersecretary for Regional Development and Officer in Charge (OIC) Adoracion M. Navarro noted it is still a considerable number that she said should prompt the concerned agencies to ramp-up their youth-oriented programs.
She cited the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) Government Internship Program (GIP), which provides temporary employment to students, and the JobStart Philippines Program, which targets marginalized youth and provides them with the necessary training and on-the-job experience.
“These will develop competencies and capabilities, including life skills and work ethics, to prepare the youth to join the work force and thrive in a competitive world of work,” said Navarro.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) earlier said it usually takes a while for NEET youth to secure employment.
The latest LFS featured other positive developments for the country’s 45.1 million workers, foremost of which is the rise in the employment rate to 95.5 percent—the highest in all previous October rounds of the survey since 2009—from 94.9 percent in October 2018.
Majority, or 57.1 percent, of the 43.1 million workers are in the services sector. It was followed by the agriculture sector with 23.5 percent and the industry sector with 18.9 percent.
Of the three sectors, the services sector recorded an increase in its share in the number of employed persons. The agriculture sector’s share contracted to 23.5 percent, from last year’s 24.1 percent.
The farm sector had to grapple with a number of developments including the implementation of the rice trade liberalization law and the outbreaks of African swine fever this year.
The October round of the LFS indicated that total net employment generation was at 1.8 million. Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III welcomed this development, saying the figure exceeded the government’s target.
“We are inspired by the increase in employment [as the rate] went beyond the target of 900,000 to 1.1 million [jobs] for the year,” Bello said in a statement.
The unemployment rate also dropped to 4.5 percent, from 5.1 percent last year. Navarro noted that the figure is the lowest in the last 10 years.
The rate of underemployment, or the proportion of those already employed but still wanting more work, also fell to 13 percent, from last year’s 13.3 percent.
Labor groups said the rosy results of the October LFS “do not portray the real picture on the ground.”
Partido Manggagawa (PM) Chairman Renato Magtubo also questioned the definition of an unemployed worker used by the PSA.
“It is so because if a person covered by the survey on a given week only worked and was paid for an hour, he/she is counted as employed,” said Magtubo.
Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro) Secretary-General Joshua Mata also raised this concern.
“Unfortunately, the PSA uses statistical measures that easily exclude from the labor market all those who have been discouraged from looking for jobs. Those not actively looking for jobs are considered out of the labor force,” said Mata.
PSA defines unemployed as persons who are “15 years and over as of their last birthday and are reported as: without work and currently available for work and looking for work; or without work and currently available for work but not looking for work due to the following reasons like being tired or believed no work available.”
Magtubo said, “It would greatly help policy-makers in addressing the lack of opportunities for gainful employment, if government surveys paint a real picture of adults having no jobs and the reasons why they are out of work.”
Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) Spokesman Alan Tanjusay criticized the nature of work of those considered employed in the LFS.
“There is [an increasing number of] contractual and five-month end-of-contract jobs that do not provide quality and long-term employment,” Tanjusay said. “So these so-called gains in the labor market that they are talking about are fleeting and temporary.”