Joblessness alert! | Inquirer Opinion
Social Climate

Joblessness alert!

/ 05:05 AM November 30, 2019

The joblessness percentage has just risen for two consecutive quarters, from 19.7 last March to 20.7 last June, and then to 21.5 in September (“Third Quarter Social Weather Survey: Adult joblessness rises to 21.5%,”, 11/20/19). Average adult joblessness this year will most likely be at least 20 percent.

In the first decade of the SWS joblessness surveys, which started in September 1993, the joblessness percentage was usually single-digit. Then it reached an average of 15.8 in 2004. Thereafter, the annual average went over 20.0, except for 2017 when it was 19.9. But then it went back to 21.9 in 2018.


The September 2019 SWS survey shows that joblessness rose to 25 percent in both the National Capital Region and the Balance of Luzon, and to 20 percent in Mindanao. But it fell in the Visayas, to 12 percent; this should be investigated by local development specialists, to discover what the favorable conditions were.

Joblessness last September was 31 percent among women versus 15 percent among men. Women are twice as likely to be jobless as men (see “Why are women more jobless?” Opinion, 3/10/18).


Joblessness was 45 percent among those of age 18-24, and diminished to 14 percent among those at least 45 years old. The youth below age 25 are three times as likely to be jobless as older workers of 45+. The gender gap and the youth gap have both stayed wide over time.

Of the nearly 22 percent jobless, there were 8 percent that lost their jobs due to an act by their employers (nonrenewal of contract, lay-off, or closure of the company), and 4 percent looking for a job for the first time. There were 10 percent, almost half of the jobless, who already had a job but voluntarily resigned to look for a different one. Obviously, they were not satisfied with the job and/or the compensation for it; they did not have what they considered as decent work.

Among the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Goal 1 is called No Poverty for short, Goal 2 is called Zero Hunger, and Goal 8 is called Decent Work and Economic Growth. These are meant to be attained jointly, not separately.

SDG8 aims to “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.” One of its specific targets is: “By 2030, achieve full and productive and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value.”

In the Philippines, the present scale of the problems encompassed by SDGs 1, 2 and 8 is very large, much larger than is revealed by official statistics. Four of every 10 families feel they are poor (mahirap). One of every 10 families experienced hunger (gutom) at least once in the last three months. Two of every 10 adults in the labor force have no job (walang trabaho) and are looking for one.

It is true that the scale of these problems is somewhat smaller now than in the past. There has been some progress, but it is very slow and is taking too long. I think that the official monitoring, by understating the problems, fosters complacency about them.

Only two of every 10 families are below the official poverty line, which is unrealistically low. Only one of every 20 persons in the (age 15+) labor force is officially unemployed, because a mere one hour of paid work in a week is officially considered employment. There is a National Nutrition Survey, but it does not ask about the literal experience of hunger.

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TAGS: Third Quarter Social Weather Survey, Unemployment
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