With 6% May jobless rate, ‘creating work vital’

File photo of a job fair interview.

EFFORTS to attract more investments are crucial in providing jobs to millions of Filipinos who are unemployed or looking for better employment opportunities, according to local economists.

On Thursday, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that 2.93 million Filipinos are unemployed while 6.67 million are underemployed in May.

The PSA noted that this translated to an unemployment rate of 6 percent and underemployment rate of 14.5 percent in May 2022. In May last year, unemployment was at 7.7 percent and underemployment was at 12.3 percent.

“I think it is not yet too late for our current administration. All they need to do is focus on bringing in our much-needed investments and prioritize employment opportunities over revenue generation. Revenue generation will follow once investments are here and people are employed,” De La Salle University economist Maria Ella Oplas told  the BusinessMirror.

Oplas said it was unfortunate that the President vetoed House Bill (HB) 7575 creating the Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone. In her view, these kinds of projects would have created much-needed jobs for Filipinos—something especially crucial at this time, when those looking for decent jobs or jobs that offer higher salaries cannot simply work abroad.

Oplas said due to the slow global recovery and the war in Eastern Europe, many of the country’s usual hosts for migrant workers are also not doing well, and this could affect the prospects of Filipinos who would like to go abroad.

“The problem is our neighboring countries are also experiencing challenging times so they will prioritize their own nationals as well. It is more sustainable to attract investors for job opportunities and economic development,” Oplas said.

Infra jobs

University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) economist Cid L. Terosa told the BusinessMirror that another option for these workers is to employ them in infrastructure development projects of the government.

Terosa said the government can also empower self-employed workers by supporting the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). These workers can also be given skills training for “new and non-traditional jobs.”

The number of underemployed, which increased by 1.177 million, were added to the number of the underemployed in May 2022, an expected phenomenon given that 2022 is an election year. However, the lackluster performance of the global economy can also be blamed for this.

“It is expected for an election year because many temporary jobs are created to support election-related activities. Of course, we can’t discount the fact that firms have refrained from hiring more workers due to the worsening external or global conditions,” Terosa said.

“Many of them will become unemployed or remain underemployed in the coming months because many production activities are being constrained by inflation, rising production costs, and fears of global recession,” he added.

PSA data showed a total of 4.52 million Filipinos were visibly underemployed and 2.144 million, invisibly underemployed.

The number of Filipinos considered invisibly underemployed increased by 620,000 between May 2021 and May 2022; while visibly underemployed workers increased by 557,000 during the 12-month period.

Underemployed persons are employed persons who expressed a desire to have additional hours of work in their present job or to have an additional job, or to have a new job with longer hours of work.

Invisible underemployment is experienced by underemployed persons who are working at least 40 hours in a week while visible underemployment is experienced by underemployed persons working less than 40 hours in a week.

“As mentioned in our briefings, there has been a restructuring in the economy towards greater informality, as jobs from services [notably accommodations, tourism, etc.] and industry have moved to agri and trading [pangangalakal]. Big challenge to collect revenues because of this restructuring,” Ateneo Center for Research and Development (ACERD) Associate Director Ser Percival K. Peña-Reyes said.

In a statement, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said efforts to introduce “productivity-enhancing investments” will also improve underemployment in the country.

Balisacan said improved quality of education; provision of opportunities for life-long learning; in-demand skills development; and options to obtain micro-credentials will be introduced.

Enhanced job-facilitation programs and strengthened linkages between industry, business and training institutions for a more efficient labor market will also be undertaken, he said.

“Amidst external shocks, the government has sustained the economy’s growth momentum and steered it towards a higher growth path. Now, the immediate challenge is the full reopening of the economy. Over the medium term, the government will focus on creating more jobs, quality jobs, and green jobs through productivity-enhancing investments,” Balisacan assured.

The National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) also commended the ease in metrics of the Department of Health (DOH) in determining the alert level system as critical in the economy’s reopening.

Balisacan likewise welcomed the move to immediately and safely resume face-to-face classes to increase domestic activities and prevent future productivity loss.

He added that a catch-up plan is needed to regain the two years of learning lost during the pandemic.

“A learning catch-up plan is crucial. This will help secure better opportunities for future generations and ensure that our demographic dividend will not be wasted,” said Balisacan.

The Neda noted the number of employed individuals increased by 1.4 million in May 2022 from May 2021, bringing total employment to 46.1 million.

Significant employment gains were recorded in the services sector as tourism and business outlook improved with the further easing of restrictions. This brings net employment creation to 3.5 million above pre-pandemic levels.

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