Social Climate

One-fourth have no real job

Last May 19, SWS reported that the Jobless are 25.7 percent of the labor force, according to the nationwide Social Weather Survey for the first quarter of 2014.  The Jobless respondents were those who, when interviewed over March 27-30, said that they had no job, and that they were looking for one.  The labor force is, by definition, the sum of the Jobless and those who said they had jobs.

The SWS term “Jobless” is capitalized here to clearly distinguish it from the official term “Unemployed.” This is now my fifth piece—see “Is 1 hour a week a ‘job’?” (5/26/2012), “Joblessness and underemployment” (2/23/2013), “Joblessness versus idleness” (10/12/2013), and “Jobless, but ‘Employed’” (2/15/2014)—to explain why the SWS Joblessness rate is more meaningful than the official Unemployment rate, which was a measly 7.5 percent as of January 2014—another instance of the tendency to address an embarrassing problem by designing statistics to render it nearly invisible.


Meaninglessness of official Unemployment. Official Unemployment is virtually meaningless because (as I wrote on 2/15/2014): “In the government’s Labor Force Survey, all respondents who worked for as little as one hour in the week before interview are classified as Employed … The key to the contrast between SWS and official figures is the latter’s stingy one-hour rule.  Official Unemployment is so low because so few can afford to be idle.”

Most of those who tell an interviewer that they are Jobless at present (walang trabaho sa kasalukuyan), referring to the day of the interview, surely had some earnings from working, even for a little while, in the week before the interview, and thus would be counted as officially Employed.  Therefore, answering that they are Jobless to the SWS question means that such work is not a real job for them. Apparently the work is too short, and/or the earnings are too small and/or unreliable, to merit telling the interviewer, may trabaho ako.


Demographics. In the aggregate, the SWS Jobless rate only declined slightly, from 27.5 percent in December 2013 to 25.7 percent in March 2014.  Yet interesting things happened to some components.

It has always been harder for younger persons to find a job.  In March 2014, the Jobless percentage was 43 among the youth, i.e., in ages 18-24, versus 31 in ages 25-34, 26 in ages 35-44, and 17 in ages 45 and up.  The SWS survey found that Joblessness fell the most among the youth; the rate fell from 52 percent last December to 43 percent this March—its lowest ever since 2005.

It has always been harder for women to find a job.  In March 2014, Joblessness was 37.8 percent among women, versus 16.5 percent among men. Compared to December 2013, the rate went up slightly among women (from 35.9 formerly), but went down substantially among men (from 21.2).

Job history. In March 2014, 11 points of the Jobless had left their previous jobs voluntarily, or more than the 10 points who had been retrenched somehow (by nonrenewal of contract, layoff, or closure of employer). The balance of about 3 points were seeking jobs for the first time.

I see the relatively large proportion who said they chose to leave their previous jobs and search for better ones as a sign of deep dissatisfaction with wages and other standards of work.  Workers aren’t content with just any job, even if regular or “real.”  They want jobs that are decent, with a distinct advantage over being Jobless.  Surveys are needed to examine trends in the quality, and not only the quantity, of jobs.

Joblessness, poverty and hunger. For far too long, the public discourse on national development has focused on aggregate economic growth and the financial health of the government and the business sector.  In contrast, the more difficult problems of poverty, hunger and joblessness have all been neglected (see my “Poverty’s not falling yet,” 5/10/2014, and “Heeding economic suffering,” 5/17/2014).

Analysis of the March 2014 Social Weather Survey suggests that even a radical increase in the availability of jobs would result in only modest reductions in poverty and hunger.


Self-rated poverty was 57 percent among the families of the Jobless, versus 50 percent among the families of those with jobs—implying that eliminating Joblessness would lessen the poverty rate by only 7 points.

Self-rated food poverty was 41 percent among families of the Jobless, versus 37 percent among the families of those with jobs—implying that eliminating Joblessness would lessen the food-poverty rate by only 4 points.

Hunger was experienced—involuntarily, at least once in the three months before the survey—by 26.0 percent among the Jobless, versus 14.7 percent among those with jobs—implying that eliminating Joblessness would lessen overall hunger by about 11 points, which is substantial.

Hunger was experienced once or a few times by 22.6 percent of the Jobless, versus 11.2 percent of those with jobs—indicating that virtually all of the impact of eliminating Joblessness would be on moderate hunger. On the other hand, hunger was experienced often or always by 3.4 percent among the Jobless, versus 3.5 percent among those with jobs—suggesting no impact at all on severe hunger.

These computations are by SWS research associate Janica Magat, for her ongoing study of the economic underclass.  They reinforce the conclusion that the Filipino people need not only more jobs, but also more pay for their work.

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Error in last week’s column: The error margin of Ateneo de Davao’s City-Wide Social Survey is plus or minus 4 percent, not 6 percent.

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TAGS: hunger, Jobless, labor, Mahar Mangahas, opinion, Poverty, Social Climate, survey, SWS, Unemployment
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