Ranks of underemployed growing


OVER 700,000 Filipinos were added to the ranks of the visibly underemployed in January 2023 due to the slowdown of economic activities after the holidays, according to the results of the January Labor Force Survey released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

On Thursday, The number of underemployed persons reached 6.65 million in January 2023, an increase of 224,000 from the 6.43 million posted in January 2022. Full story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2023/03/09/employment-rises-by-4-09m-in-january-psa/

Based on PSA data, a total of 712,000 Filipinos were added to the ranks of the visibly underemployed, swelling the number to 4.581 million compared to January’s 3.869 million.

“This was expected; because first, the average work hours in a week went down compared to the last quarter of 2022 because, of course the slowdown of activities related to the holidays,” National Statistician Claire Dennis S. Mapa said in a briefing, speaking partly in Filipino.

Compared to December 2022, the January data showed that the visibly underemployed increased by 608,000 from the 3.973 million visibly underemployed.

Filipinos who are visibly underemployed are those working less than 40 hours in a week and have expressed the desire to have additional hours of work in their present job or to have additional jobs.

Sectors driving underemployment

Mapa said sectors that saw a spike in employment in December 2022 were the ones that contributed to the increase in underemployment in January 2023.

These sectors included 128,00 Filipinos becoming underemployed in agriculture and forestry, followed by 38,000 in the public administration and defense, compulsory security, social security sector.

The data also showed 26,000 Filipinos became underemployed in the accommodation and food services sector; 19,000 in the communication and information sector; and 16,000 in wholesale and retail trade as well as repair of motor vehicles.

“We can see that we have subsectors where employment rose, as well as the working hours during the holiday season; they’re now the ones contributing to underemployment. Perhaps we can surmise that the working hours in these subsectors have since gone down,” Mapa explained.

Based on the PSA data, some 34.9 percent of employed Filipinos worked less than 40 hours a week in January. This is higher than the 33.9 percent in October and 30.3 percent in January 2022.

The data also showed that 63.4 percent of employed Filipinos worked for more than 40 hours a week in January, lower than the 65.2 percent in October 2022.

The average working hours per week was 39.6 hours in January 2023 for workers and those with their own businesses.

“The latest employment indicators show the robust recovery and growth of our labor market from its slump in January 2022, when the surge in Omicron cases prompted stringent mobility and capacity restrictions,” Neda Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said.

Wanted: Quality jobs

“However, we note that employment created year-on-year were mostly part-time and classified as vulnerable. Thus, it is imperative that labor market policies and programs that directly contribute to labor productivity and employment generation must be prioritized, not only to preserve jobs but also to generate quality jobs,” he added.

The country’s chief economist also emphasized the implementation of the strategies on human capital development outlined in the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2023-2028.

“High-quality jobs necessitate highly-skilled individuals. We will prioritize the upskilling and reskilling of the workforce to equip them with higher competencies by expanding lifelong learning opportunities,” Balisacan said.

“At the same time, we will ensure that employment opportunities are available and the information accessible,” he added.

Neda cited the PSA report that the country’s unemployment rate in during the same period last year.

The employment rate accelerated to 95.2 percent, which translates to an additional 4.1 million employed persons, on account of employment gains in the services and agriculture sectors in January 2023. This brings total employment to 47.4 million from 43.3 million in January 2022.

Correspondingly, the labor force participation rate rebounded to 64.5 percent, equivalent to 49.7 million Filipinos in the labor force, of which 20.6 million are women.

Image credits: Bernard Testa