Social Climate

Joblessness versus idleness

/ 11:55 PM October 11, 2013

“Joblessness.” Last Monday, Social Weather Stations reported (BusinessWorld, 10/7/2013) that joblessness was 26.1 percent of adults in its survey of June 28-30, 2013.  The basic SWS jobless figure is for those who say they have no job at the time of the survey (“walang trabaho sa kasalukuyan“), and who are looking for a job.  The basic SWS jobless percentage in the previous quarter was 25.4 in March 2013.

One out of every four Filipino adults being involuntarily jobless is a very serious problem.


It must be stressed that an SWS survey asks respondents if they have a job NOW.  It does not ask if they had worked in a PAST period, for example last week, before the survey.  Someone without a definite way to earn income this week would feel jobless, whether or not she/he was idle last week.

If the jobless are further limited, not only to jobseekers but also to those who are ready to accept a job opportunity in the next two weeks, then the “jobless-and-ready” in the June 2013 SWS survey would be 18.2 percent, or close to one out of five.


“Unemployment.” SWS is careful to refer to its figure as “joblessness,” to distinguish it from the official term “unemployment.”  Officially, the unemployed are those of labor force age (15+) who (a) did practically no work in the week PRIOR to being surveyed, and (b) are currently seeking work, and (c) can accept a work opportunity in the next two weeks. Anyone who did gainful work for as little as one hour in the week before being surveyed is officially defined as employed.  Only those thoroughly idle last week may officially qualify as unemployed.

Under these definitions, the latest official unemployment rate is 7.3 percent, for July 2013.  Earlier this year, the official unemployment percentages were 7.5 in April and 7.1 percent in January.  The 2013 unemployment rates amount to only about one out of 14, which is a far cry from one out of four or five.  The reason the official unemployment rate fails to alert the public about the problem is this: Its definition starts with idleness.

Underemployment and “job misery.” However, the government’s Labor Force Survey also finds that, among those who were considered employed last week, three times as many people are seeking jobs as those who were completely idle.  The officially underemployed were 19.2 percent of the labor force in July 2013, bringing the sum of the officially unemployed and underemployed to 7.3 + 19.2 = 26.5 percent.  This sum, christened “job misery” by UP statistics professor Dennis Mapa, jibes very well with the SWS figure for joblessness.

The official underemployment percentages earlier this year were 19.2 in April and 20.9 in January.  Adding them to the unemployment percentages gives job-misery rates of 26.7 in April and 28.0 in January.  These are close to the SWS rates of joblessness, implying that the latter do not exaggerate the failure of the economy to meet the popular demand for more opportunities to earn a living.

History of the jobless. The latest SWS jobless rate can be broken down into 4.8 percent looking for a job for the first time, 9.0 percent who involuntarily lost the jobs they already had (generically called “retrenched”), and 10.2 percent who had resigned from their previous jobs.

The majority of first-time jobseekers are women, below 35 years old, and high school graduates who have not finished college.

The great majority of the retrenched (6.6 percentage points) had been on contract, but were not renewed, i.e. their jobs were lost together with their employers’ volume of business.  Nonrenewal hits older people more frequently than younger people—it peaks at 45 percent among the jobless of age 55 and up, and steadily declines to only 7 percent among the jobless of age 18-24.


Many cases of retrenchment (1.6 points) are due to closings of shop of former employers.  A few cases (0.8 points) were outright layoffs.

SWS does not ask workers why they resigned.  Resignation is presumably due to discontent with the job, in terms of earnings, status, congeniality with the family’s situation, or other reasons.  It is noticeable that 64 percent of the jobless of the middle-to-upper ABCs are cases of resignation, compared to 49 percent of the Ds (“masa”) and only 39 percent of the very poor Es.

Demographics of joblessness. Finding jobs is always harder for women than for men.  In June 2013 in particular, joblessness was 36 percent among women, compared to 19 percent among men.

Finding jobs is also always harder for younger than for older persons.  In June 2013 the joblessness rates were a staggering 52 percent among the youth aged 18-24, compared to 34 percent in ages 25-34, 22 percent in ages 35-44, and only 13 percent in ages 45-54.  It went up to 20 percent in ages 55+, presumably reflecting the fact that productivity eventually falters with age.

In relation to schooling, joblessness peaks among high school graduates who have not completed college, at 32 percent.  It is middling among elementary school graduates who have not completed high school (24 percent), and among college graduates (22 percent).  Joblessness is lowest, at 15 percent, among those who have not completed elementary school.

UP economics professor Emmanuel S. de Dios says that “most of the poor are not unemployed, and most of the unemployed are not poor” (“Unemployment has no welfare significance,” BusinessWorld, 9/30/2013).   I agree that unemployment does not matter much; it is joblessness that does.

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Contact SWS: or [email protected]

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TAGS: Idleness, joblessness, Mahar Mangahas, opinion, Social Climate, SWS, Underemployment, Unemployment
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