Bad news, good news on jobs | Inquirer Opinion
No Free Lunch

Bad news, good news on jobs

/ 05:26 AM October 27, 2017

The July job figures were just released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), and alas, the headline numbers have moved in the wrong direction. Even with bits of good news in the details, we ought to worry when key economic data like employment generally turn for the worse. After all, more joblessness means more poor.

A top concern is the loss of 784,000 jobs over the past year (that is, between July 2016 and last July), when we should be generating much more jobs with every passing year. Note that there are well over a million added to the pool of working-age (15 years old and up) Filipinos every year. Last year, 1.7 million Filipinos turned 15. Even so, it helped that the total labor force—or those of working age who want to work—actually shrank by 743,000. Most of those new
15-year-olds did not really enter the labor force to begin with, as most of them were in school. On top of that, hundreds of thousands already in the labor force opted out, for one reason or another. Still, the loss in jobs exceeded the net labor force dropouts, which pushed the unemployment rate to 5.6 percent from 5.4 percent in the same period last year, adding 41,000 to the ranks of our 2.3 million unemployed.


Women, unfortunately, accounted for the major part of the jobs decline (-771,000). Young workers 15-24 years old also dominated (-683,000) job losses. A substantial portion (-547,000) involved post-secondary workers, or those who had gone to college, whether graduated or not. These trends should help guide the focus of the government’s job generation efforts, which must include ensuring a better match between tertiary education programs and industry needs.

Why did the economy lose so many jobs over the past year? Agriculture was again the sore spot, as it actually lost more than a million jobs, even as the sector turned around from negative to positive output growth over the past year. The services sector also lost 189,000 jobs, mostly in wholesale and retail trade. These job losses were partly offset by a welcome gain of 434,000 jobs in industry, mostly in construction and manufacturing. This was a silver lining in the overall bad news, because industry jobs, especially in manufacturing, are likely to be better-quality jobs. They tend to be more stable and remunerative than those in agriculture (which are seasonal) and in services (which are prominently in the informal sector, or if not, are contractual and unstable).


There are other positive indications, particularly of improved job quality. The percentage of workers that were underemployed went down to 16.3 percent from last year’s 17.4 percent. These are workers who indicate in the survey that they want additional hours of work in their present job, or want to have an additional job, or would like to find a new job with longer working hours. There are two kinds: The visibly underemployed are those who work less than 40 hours a week, while the invisibly underemployed work full time but feel the need to work more or find a better job. Falling underemployment could be indicative of more remunerative jobs.

Also indicative of improving job quality is the decline in part-time workers (those who work less than 40 hours a week), down by 1.138 million. At the same time, unpaid family workers dropped by 1.055 million. On the other hand, wage and salary workers increased by more than half a million (508,000), raising their share in total workers to 63.6 percent, from 61.2 percent last year. About 10 years ago, wage and salary workers made up only about half of the total, and the proportion has steadily increased over the years, in yet another indication of improving job quality. The PSA also tracked an increase in the average daily basic pay in the country by P31.17 in 2017, to P414.64 as of January. This came about as regional tripartite wages and productivity boards approved varying wage increases in five regions.

All told, with our unemployment rate still well above our neighbors’ average of around 3 percent, there’s clearly much more homework for us to do to attract more job-creating investments, from small and large firms, and local and foreign investors alike.

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TAGS: employment, good news, joblessness, Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA)
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