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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

‘Stimulus urgently needed to create more jobs’

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Given the latest labor data and recent economic developments, local economists on Wednesday said they are not confident that job prospects in the Philippines will improve in the coming months.

On Wednesday, the PSA data showed there were 2.2 million Filipinos who were unemployed and 6.2 million who were considered underemployed in December. (Full story here: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2023/02/08/2-2-million-unemployed-6-2-million-underemployed-labor-force-survey/)

In an email, former Labor Undersecretary Rene Ofreneo told the BusinessMirror that foreign direct investments (FDI) could generate jobs but the recent pledges received from the President’s foreign trips may not be forthcoming.

“After the Christmas season and revenge spending last year by the repressed Covid consumers, there might indeed be a slowdown, lalo na’t walang bagong stimulus tulad ng elections. Agriculture continues to shrink,” Ofreneo said.

He said the Marcos administration must implement some “bold investment mobilization measures,” such as asking top businesses to help raise government revenues.

This, he said, could be done through at least one-off taxation as recommended by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and asking them to invest on job-generating projects in industry and agriculture.

Wala pa naman tayong nakikitang concrete expression ng mga FDI pledges sa mga byahe ng Pangulo. Wala ring prospect for job creation this year under the Maharlika [Investment Fund],” Ofreneo added.

Ateneo de Manila University’s Leonardo A. Lanzona Jr. said, however, that jobs in the services sector and in Metro Manila could become available for Filipino workers.

Lanzona cautioned that job generation in other sectors and regions could remain weak. This would also be affected by poor conditions due to the overall changes in technology.

“Government needs to focus on upskilling and improving the quality of education. Agriculture and industry should also be supported since this is where the relatively unskillled workers may still be employed,” he said.

Unpaid family workers

Meanwhile, amid the return of the country’s employment data to pre-pandemic levels, over 400,000 Filipinos became unpaid family workers in December 2022, according to data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

The data also showed the number of unpaid family workers increased by 420,000 to 4.28 million in December 2022 from 3.86 million in December 2021.

“The country’s digital transformation is reducing the number of middle level skilled jobs. Unless you have reached tertiary education, your only option is low-skilled jobs that are quite precarious,” Lanzona said.

Part of what can explain this also, PSA Assistant National Statistician Wilma A. Guillen told the BusinessMirror, is the holidays and Filipinos helping out in family businesses.

It is possible, Guillen said, that Filipinos who went home during the holidays helped out their families.

The data also showed that there was a decline compared to the 4.38 million unpaid family workers in November 2022. National Statistician Claire Dennis S. Mapa said some of these workers may have shifted to other sectors or moved out of the labor force.

Nonetheless, Mapa said careful study is needed to further explain the data. He added that the dataset on unpaid family work was still fresh and has to be analyzed further.

Meanwhile, the PSA data showed there was a 704,000 decline in the number of employed Filipinos in December compared to November. The data also showed there was a 43,000 increase in unemployed Filipinos between December and November.

Ofreneo said this was “unusual” given the busy holiday season. The hustle and bustle of preparing for Christmas usually generated a significant amount of economic activity thereby creating more jobs.

However, Lanzona said the decline may have been due to the post-Christmas period in December when some of the jobs generated to prepare for the holidays were shed once the presents have been delivered to friends and family.

“The dramatic decline in joblessness last November was due to the holiday activities. But these were mostly in retail and linked to holiday consumption. When shopping weakened after Christmas, a lot of these jobs disappeared,” Lanzona said.

Government efforts

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said the top employment contributors in December 2022 include wholesale and retail trade, other service activities, and accommodation and food service activities.

These were boosted by the full resumption of commercial activities, pent-up demand, and holiday spending. However, these were tempered by losses in agriculture due to weather disturbances and the spread of infectious diseases among livestock and poultry.

“We are steadfast in pursuing this year’s growth target amidst global and domestic risks to ensure that jobs are preserved and new employment is generated. Generating more and high-quality jobs in the agriculture sector and ensuring food security for Filipinos remain part of our top priorities,” Neda Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said.

Neda said as the economy further reopened, 1.7 million more Filipinos joined the labor force, raising the labor force participation rate to 66.4 percent from 65.1 percent in the previous year.

The corresponding expansion in the services and industry sectors resulted in an additional 2.7 million employed persons year-on-year, bringing total employment to 49 million Filipinos.

“As emphasized in the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028, increasing the income-earning ability of Filipinos entails developing their employability in the market. Alongside providing high-quality jobs, we must ensure that their skills are not just aligned with current in-demand requirements but can also continuously keep up with the demands of evolving and emerging jobs,” Balisacan said.

“Crucial to achieving social and economic transformation is the ‘transformation of talent’ that would create an agile labor force and sustain labor market gains. We will leverage our momentum to ensure the rapid and dynamic growth of our economy,” he added.

Image credits: Nonie Reyes

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