Rising ‘overemployed’ numbers stir concern


MAKING ends meet is forcing many Filipinos to become “overemployed” by working more than 40 hours a week, local economists said on Thursday, as the statistics agency revealed an increase in September jobless data.

The changing landscape of the world of work through hybrid work arrangements may also lead some Filipinos to work longer hours compared to prepandemic times, they noted.

This, despite 4.25 million Filipinos considered unemployed in September—representing an increase of over 300,000 over the 3.88 million unemployed in August 2021. (See: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2021/11/04/4-25-million-jobless-in-sept-unemployment-now-at-new-high-of-8-9/)

“That is the risk of high unemployment. People are desperate to get employed because they are willing to work even though under compensated or [subjected to] poor work conditions,” De La Salle University economist Maria Ella Oplas told the BusinessMirror on Thursday.

Oplas said it is also possible that due to the lack of jobs available, Filipinos decide to take on several jobs, rendering them “overemployed” since they may be working more than 40 hours a week in several jobs.

Focus on low wages

She said that while this is good for the economy, especially with Filipinos being able to earn even during a pandemic, this underscores the need to improve salaries and wages in the country.

In 2016, the World Bank said millions of Filipinos remained poor not because they are jobless, but because they have low incomes. At that time, the growth of Filipinos’ real wages had stayed flat since 2000 despite the average growth of 3.4 percent in labor productivity between 2004 and 2014.

“During this pandemic…even those who are employed needed to adjust. [They] received pay cuts, no bonuses etc. just to keep their jobs. I’m expecting that this should improve as we slowly open the economy,” Oplas said.

Former Labor Undersecretary Rene Ofreneo told the BusinessMirror that apart from this, the new elementary or high-school graduates may have joined the labor force. Given their lack of years or schooling and work experience, respectively, they may have ended up in jobs that may be labor-intensive but pay little.

Ultimately, the increase in mean hours worked is an indication of the quality of jobs, which highlights the country’s underemployment challenges. “The quality of their jobs is not ideal, [where they are] forced to work more hours. The economy is not creating good-quality, decent jobs in substantial numbers,” Ofreneo said.

Complex labor market

Ofreneo said the longer working hours may already be a reflection of the shift in the jobs available in the Philippines. He said the labor market, not only in the Philippines, is becoming more complex.

Human Resource offices in various firms, he said, are already busy preparing hybrid work plans that will allow employees to work onsite and at home when more workers are allowed to report in their offices.

Ofreneo said the digitalization of work, now happening, is affecting the operation of companies and jobs of millions around the world.

The changing work environment has also led many workers to quit their jobs due to changes in the workplace. Ofreneo said this is placing more pressure on Human Resource practitioners to find and hire quality employees.

“The labor market has become complicated even in the formal employment market. In the informal labor market, eh, di kahig pa din ng kahig [one has to keep eking out little pay],” Ofreneo said. 

48-hour work week

Based on the preliminary Labor Force Survey (LFS) results of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), some 8.326 million workers worked more than 48 hours a week.

This is the highest since July 2021 when there were 8.991 million Filipinos who worked more than 48 hours a week. 

Data also showed that some 64.1 percent of these workers said their desire for more earnings is behind their move to work more than 48 hours a week. This is the highest this year, based on PSA data.

Other reasons workers cited on why they worked over 48 hours a week include being part of job requirements at 33.4 percent; and being an exceptional week and ambition or passion for the job at 0.9 percent.

Image courtesy of Bernard Testa

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