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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

World Bank flags low support for jobless youth

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YOUNG Filipinos bore the brunt of pandemic job losses but not all of them received any support during this time, according to the latest report released by the World Bank.

During the launch of the report “The Philippine Jobs Report: Shaping a Better Future for the Filipino Workforce,” World Bank Senior Economist Yoonyoung Cho stressed that 3.7 million young Filipinos aged 15 to 24 were not working or in school or training and 2 million more were either unemployed or underemployed.

In the report, the World Bank said 36 percent of the working age population was out of the labor force, and nearly 61 percent of the inactive population were neither in employment nor in education or training (NEET).

“Existing [unemployment] programs may cover only a fraction of this vulnerable population and youth group, only a few thousand beneficiaries. These fall short of the needs of the market. A few large programs exist but they sometimes do provide support only during a very short period of time, or one time support and transfer,” Cho said.

The World Bank said the country’s problems in the labor market such as high youth unemployment continued even after the lockdowns.

Apart from the lack of jobs, the World Bank also said the working poverty rate was higher for them even before the pandemic in 2019. In 2022, youth employment remained low whereas overall labor market indicators recovered to prepandemic level.

“The youth group was disproportionately affected by the pandemic shock on the labor market, and the scarring effect may stay long after the economic activities return,” said Ndiamé Diop, World Bank Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines.

“While conducive business environment policies will encourage quality job creation in the private sector, more targeted approaches to address youth challenges are urgently needed,” Diop said.

The World Bank said this is just one example of the challenges faced by the labor market during the pandemic. Covid-19, the Washington-based lender said, reversed the country’s progress in generating jobs.

The report found that the pandemic caused high productivity employment to be lost and low-paying occupations have actually filled the void in jobs.

With the strong rebound of the economy, the World Bank said employment indicators appear to have returned to prepandemic levels, but the quality of jobs remains a concern particularly for young people.

“Active labor market programs including measures like skills training, job search assistance, wage subsidies, public works programs, and entrepreneurship promotion should be further strengthened,” Cho said.

“These can be complemented by modernizing labor regulations through simplifying labor rules and providing guidance on flexible forms of work arrangement; expanding social insurance; and modernizing inspection and compliance verification systems through digital tools,” she added.

The report also notes the potential role of modernizing labor regulations, strengthening the management of international migration, and investing in skills in emerging green and digital sectors, to boost youth employment.

Continuing to utilize overseas employment opportunities while ensuring the welfare and safety of migrant workers remains critical, said the report.

Globally, there’s a growing emphasis on the “green economy” and the changing nature of work driven by digital technology, according to the report.

Green jobs come from activities to protect biodiversity, reduce waste and pollution, and conserve resources such as energy, materials, and water.

They can also be generated from strategies for greater energy efficiency and transitioning towards a decarbonized economy.

Digital jobs typically refer to those that use information and communications technology (ICT) including computing, Internet, and mobile phones; freelancing jobs accessed and traded through online platforms (online gig economy); jobs created by online platforms themselves (sharing economy); and digital penetration in real sector jobs especially through e-commerce.

In the Philippines, the report says there are several areas where policies can enhance the country’s chances of benefiting from these trends, including operationalizing the Philippines Green Jobs Act of 2016.

The law provides relevant incentives for firms engaged in green activities and generating green jobs; targeted skills development for youth incorporating green and digital skills; economic zones for green and digital job creation; and social protection for the digital workforce.

Image credits: Bernard Testa

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