Are jobs better? | Inquirer Opinion
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Are jobs better?

Has the welfare of Filipino workers improved over the years? Labor Day provides a good occasion to examine the facts, and while on holiday yesterday, I decided to compare our latest labor data (January 2017) with the data exactly 10 years ago (January 2007).

There are good signs that our economy has been generating more and better jobs in recent years. Our official labor statistics tell us that the unemployment rate had successively gone down from more than 6.5 percent in 2013 to only 4.7 percent as of October 2016. This decline is even more remarkable given that growth in deployment of overseas Filipino workers abroad had markedly slowed down over the years. While OFW deployment was growing annually at 5.9 percent in 2005, it had slowed down to 3.3 percent by 2010, and to only 0.7 percent in 2015. The fact that domestic unemployment still fell significantly can only mean that much more jobs have become available here at home in recent years.


But are these new jobs of good quality? An important indicator of this would be the rate of underemployment. As defined in our statistics, the underemployed are those who have work, but want to work more. There are two kinds of underemployed workers: those who are visibly underemployed and those who are invisibly so. The visibly underemployed work only part time—that is, less than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week—and would like to work more, given the chance to do so. (Those working only part time but are content with that are not considered underemployed.) But some who are actually working full time may still want more work, perhaps because their full-time jobs are not enough to make ends meet for their families. There could also be those who may simply want something better, even if earning enough (although these are probably much less). These are the invisibly underemployed, and as of last count (in January 2017), they numbered around 2.6 million, or 40 percent of our underemployed.

Meanwhile, more than 3.7 million workers (60 percent) were visibly underemployed, putting the total underemployed at 6.4 million, or 16.3 percent of all workers. The good news is that the past 10 years have also seen substantial decline in the underemployment rate, which was 21.5 percent 10 years ago (7.2 million, or around 800,000 more). Who are these underemployed? What sectors do they work in, that don’t provide them enough? Ten years ago, the biggest group comprising 45.7 percent and numbering 3.3 million were agriculture workers; now, the biggest group comprising 46.9 percent and numbering 3 million are services sector workers.


Service workers comprised 39.2 percent (2.8 million workers) of the underemployed 10 years ago, while agriculture workers now comprise 32.8 percent (2.1 million) of today’s underemployed work force. The industry sector contributes the least of our underemployed (20.3 percent now, and 15.1 percent 10 years ago, or 1.3 and 1.2 million workers, respectively). This suggests that better-quality jobs are to be found in industry, especially in manufacturing which makes up 70 percent of the industry sector.

Among Filipinos who had a job, only slightly more than half earned wages and salaries 10 years ago. Making up 35 percent were the self-employed, the bulk of whom were likely to be in the informal (underground) economy, while 12 percent were actually unpaid family workers in their own farm or enterprise. Now, however, closer to two-thirds of employed workers earn wages and salaries, while the self-employed are down to 27 percent, and unpaid family workers are down to 6.3 percent. These suggest to me that today’s jobs are of significantly better quality than they were 10 years ago. Another indication that job quality has improved is that managerial, professional and technical jobs now make up more than one-fourth (26 percent) of all jobs, against less than a fifth (19 percent) 10 years ago. Correspondingly, the proportion of laborers and unskilled workers has gone down from one-third (32.3 percent) 10 years ago, to only one-fourth (25.4 percent) of all jobs now.

Are jobs better? The data suggest that they are. And we need to keep working at it.

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TAGS: data, Employee, employment, job, jobs, labor, Labor Day, opinion, work, worker
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