Realistic statistics on joblessness
In the past 12 years, the official rate of unemployment in the Philippines has been very low, ranging from 5 to 8 percent. If between 92 and 95 percent of those wanting employment are always able to find it, then it looks as though unemployment is not much of a problem.
The trick to make employment appear high in the official statistics is to define it as working for as little as one hour in the week prior to the Labor Force Survey. (During the martial law period, the definition was even sillier: one hour of work in the three months prior to the Labor Force Survey.) This is similar to the trick of making official poverty disappear by using an unrealistically low official poverty line.
In the SWS surveys on joblessness, on the other hand, there is no work-time criterion to define what constitutes a job. We simply ask directly if the survey respondent has a job or not (“may trabaho o walang trabaho”), relying on whatever the respondent thinks a job means.
Last week, SWS reported that, as of Dec. 2-6, 2016, 25.1 percent of the adult labor force said they were jobless. It is about five times the size of the official rate of unemployment. Such a gross disparity between the two measures is not unusual; it has always been so.
What the mass media chose to highlight was the 6.7 point increase in joblessness from 18.4 percent in September 2016, which happened to be the lowest point in the last nine years. Actually, the trend in joblessness in the last five years has been more downward than upward. For 2016 as a whole, the average joblessness rate was less than a point above that of 2015 as a whole. The last five annual average joblessness percentages were: 2016, 22.3; 2015, 21.9; 2014, 25.4; 2013, 25.2; and 2012, 28.8.
Most of the last quarter’s 6 point rise in joblessness was accounted for by a 4 point increase in those who had voluntarily resigned from their jobs. Almost half of the resignations were due to a change in the family situation, such as marriage, change of residence, a birth, a death, etc.
Another one-fourth were due to disappointment in wages or benefits. These changes tended to affect women much more than men. Joblessness among women was 40 percent, compared to only 14 percent among men.
What people see as a real job, it seems to me, is not how much time it requires to be at work, but how decent are its compensation and working conditions. They will not stay long in jobs that disappoint them.
In the last survey, 38 percent of the resignations had been in their last job for less than a year, and 41 percent had been in their jobs for 1-3 years only. In other words, it takes about four years for people to determine that they have real jobs.
Why do Filipinos leave their jobs? Not because they are overly ambitious. When SWS asked the jobless, in December 2016, how much salary they were willing to accept, the national median was only P6,000 per month, among those who gave their aspiration in monthly terms.
By area, the median monthly asking salaries of the jobless were P13,000 in the National Capital Region, P10,000 in the Balance of Luzon, P7,000 in the Visayas, and P5,000 in Mindanao.
By educational attainment, the median monthly asking salaries of the jobless were P10,000 among college graduates, P8,000 among those who finished high school but not college, P6,000 among elementary graduates who did not finish high school, and P5,000 among nonelementary graduates. These are not the aspirations of greedy people.
What the people need is not just opportunities to work a certain minimum hours per week, but also real jobs to enable them to earn decent incomes from their work.
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