The government has vowed to invest heavily in the country’s agriculture sector, which accounted for one in every four jobs in December, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).
Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the DA said 24.4 percent of the 50.5 million employed in December were in the agriculture sector, or around 12.3 million Filipinos.
Services accounted for a 57.3 percent share of the jobs in December while industry had an 18.3-percent share.
Agriculture also generated 715,000 new jobs in December, the second most for the month when the country’s unemployment rate slipped to 3.1 percent, the lowest in 2023.
“We could do much more in generating jobs and helping more of Filipinos in agriculture to have better lives,” Agriculture Secretary Francisco P. Tiu Laurel Jr. said in a statement.
“The Department of Agriculture is now completing a three-year strategy that will modernize agriculture, attract more investments, and produce more to ensure food security.”
The government is seeking to increase food productivity to ensure stable supply at reasonable prices and reduce importation. By improving returns from agriculture, government hopes it could inspire a new generation of farmers to replace an already aging population.
Laurel said the government aims to invest heavily in irrigation, machineries, post-harvest facilities and other farm inputs to boost production, lower cost, improve efficiency and raise returns for farmers.
Initial investments have resulted in record high harvest of 20.06 million metric tons of rice last year, helping reduce imports.
Based on the results of the latest Labor Force Survey, the PSA said the country’s unemployment rate averaged 3.1 percent in December 2023 and 4.3 percent in 2023. The 3.1 percent rate in December is a new record low in the series that began in 2005.
Given this, the country’s employment rate averaged 96.9 percent in December 2023 and 95.7 percent in 2023. The PSA said the rate in December is also the highest since 2005.
An expert from the Asian Development Bank said in October 2020 that returning migrant Filipino workers can turn to agriculture if the government is able to put in place targeted policies and programs that will develop the sector.
In an Asian Development Blog, ADB agriculture economist Matthias Leitner said an improved farm sector would be able to provide employment to thousands of overseas Filipino workers who have been displaced abroad due to the pandemic.
“The agriculture sector will play a crucial role in the country’s [Philippines] recovery from Covid-19 impacts, albeit struggling with persistent low labor productivity,” Leitner said.
“Average wages for non-agricultural workers are about 10 percent higher than the maximum daily- wage rate in agriculture. For the sector to absorb additional incoming labor, it needs to modernize and improve its competitiveness.”