The long-term SWS agenda | Inquirer Opinion
Social Climate

The long-term SWS agenda

/ 05:01 AM April 30, 2022

This week’s SWS release—“Fourth Quarter 2021 Social Weather Survey: Adult joblessness at 24.7%,”, 4/28/22—is its 115th joblessness report since 1993, when it became a regular by-product of its quarterly national survey of adults.


The SWS data-series on joblessness started after that on poverty, and before that on hunger (see my Inquirer columns, “132 poverty surveys in 40 years,” 3/26/22, and “95 hunger surveys since 1998,” 4/2/22). At each point in time, these three indicators of economic suffering are based on the same survey respondents. They are correlated with each other, as would be expected. As an economist, I hope SWS will be able to continue measuring them together.

A Social Weather Survey has many topics, corresponding to various dimensions of human well-being, such as perceptions of public safety, victimization by crime, satisfaction with governance, and so forth (see “History by the numbers,” 1/8/22). It is concerned with much more than the popularity of politicians. The multiplicity of topics allows over 50 media releases per year, given SWS’ limited staff.


A typical quarterly SWS survey interviews two respondents: the household head and a random adult (who might be the household head also). The former might be asked 60+ questions, including 30+ backgrounders; the latter might be asked 200+ questions, including 50+ backgrounders. The whole encounter of 60 to 90 minutes entails the trust and hospitality of the respondents.

The SWS archive is now a treasure trove of 711 datasets, 331 of which are national in scope, from 1,084,623 interviews using 128,896 questionnaire items. These are the raw materials from which I hope social scientists will construct statistical models of the dynamics of human well-being, and then test the models’ forecasting capability, just like models of the meteorological weather.

There is nothing sinister about the timing of the SWS media releases. SWS is not a news agency. It is an institute to generate original meaningful data that are alternative and/or supplementary to orthodox government statistics, for the information of the public in general, and the social science community in particular.

SWS appreciates the media companies for helping to disseminate its findings. Its prime role, however, is in continuously gathering fresh data and then preserving them for social scientists in general (and not only for its internal use). Analysis of fresh data is not pro forma or amenable to Artificial Intelligence.

There was a time, in its first decade, when SWS would hold a symposium to present a comprehensive report of the “social weather.” The report took much time after the fieldwork to write, and some hours to present, after which the media participants would just select a few items considered “newsworthy.” Experience taught us that writing up and releasing one topic at a time is more effective.

Features of the new joblessness report. Average quarterly joblessness rose from 19.8 percent in pre-pandemic 2019, to a catastrophic 37.4 percent in 2020, pandemic Year One, and then partially subsided to 25.7 percent in 2021, pandemic Year Two.

By area, joblessness is highest in the National Capital Region (latest average 35 percent in 2021, versus 41 percent in 2020 and 21 percent in 2019). Elsewhere, the numbers for 2021, 2020, and 2019 are: 28, 37, and 21 in Balance Luzon; 23, 39, and 16 in Visayas; and 19, 34, and 19 in Mindanao. So it appears that Mindanao has recovered.


By sex, the 2021, 2020, and 2019 average jobless percentages are: 33, 47, and 30 for women; and 21, 29, and 12 for men. Gender discrimination continues; neither sex has fully recovered to pre-pandemic times.

By age, the 2021, 2020, and 2019 average percentages jobless are: 54, 59, and 43 for those aged 18-24; versus 18, 32, and 13 for those aged 45 and over. Age discrimination continues; no age group has fully recovered.

What comes next? The SWS agenda since 1986 is on record; it has been fairly comprehensive. Its future is up to its current people, who have not changed, except that I have been kicked upstairs.


Contact: [email protected]

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