Pick ‘low-hanging fruits’ to spur jobs growth, government told


AS the September Labor Force Survey (LFS) shows jobs are beginning to solidify even though ranks of the unemployed increased, the chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means on Thursday recommended that the national government pick the “lowest hanging fruits” to stimulate job growth amid the pandemic.

Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, also the cochairman of the House Economic Recovery Cluster, made a statement as unemployed persons still increased by around 370,000, largely due to seasonal effects in agriculture, which lost around 862,000 jobs.

“Overall, the trend from April to the latest LFS shows that the aggregate job situation has begun to solidify. While this is good news for those who were able to find jobs, the unemployment situation remains concerning, as improving vaccination rates appears to have done little to reduce unemployment,” he said.

Ramp up procurement plans

According to Salceda, the government must issue a directive to agencies with high underutilization rates to complete their procurement plans, especially of human resource (HR) personnel.

“Public administration and defense; compulsory social security was a job growth driver for September [118,000 jobs] and will remain so if HR procurement can be completed over the course of the next months prior to election ban,” he said.

Also, Salceda said the government must reduce the risk of lockdowns and community transmission by considering vaccine mandates for employees and tenants of highly exposed places such as public markets and other community spaces.

The government, he added, should also complete the 2021 infrastructure program by issuing directives to district engineering offices.

“Assist growing sectors such as the BPO sector in recruiting employees by directing local public employment and services offices and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to craft agreements and collaborate with such sectors,” he added.

“These low-hanging fruits can all be picked by mere executive action,” Salceda said.

The lawmaker said the wholesale and retail trade and repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles sector grew by 353,000 employed persons, signifying that the increased reopening of the economy is helping make this highly face-to-face sector recover.

“Although unemployed persons increased by around 370,000, this is largely due to seasonal effects in agriculture, which lost around 862,000 jobs. At this stage, most rice crops for the season have already been planted and harvest season is still some months away,” he said.

“These months are also called tiempo muerto [dead season] in sugar-producing areas; I expect agricultural jobs to have recovered last month and this month, which should be reflected in the next LFS,” he added.

Manufacturing jobs decline

Meanwhile, Salceda said the job decline in manufacturing is mildly concerning.

“The sector lost some 343,000 jobs month-on-month when Christmas season manufacturing should begin to pick up,” he noted, adding: “I expect the recovery in retail trade to eventually pull up manufacturing once stocks begin to be sold out.”

Salceda said youth labor force participation rate (LFPR) dropped to 35.8 percent in September 2021 from 37.8 percent in August 2021.

“Youth employment rate was down to 82.3 percent in September 2021, from 84.0 percent in August 2021. I attribute this to the resumption of classes, as evidenced by the increase of jobs in the education sector [by 115,000 jobs],” he added.

“The prospects in that sector were buoyed by the suspension of the Revenue Regulations imposing regular corporate income tax on proprietary schools, as well as the approval by Congress of House Bill 9913 [an Act Clarifying the Income Taxation of Proprietary Educational Institutions, Amending for the Purpose Section 27 (B) of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997, as Amended],” he said.

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