Massive job dissatisfaction
Fully half of the Jobless are people who already had jobs but voluntarily left them, and are now looking for new jobs. The existence of widespread dissatisfaction with jobs is the most important message in this week’s SWS report: “Second Quarter 2014 Social Weather Survey: Adult Joblessness at 25.9%; 9% lost their jobs involuntarily, 13% resigned.”
The relevance of job history. The new SWS Joblessness rate consists of: (a) 13 percent who had jobs, but voluntarily left them, (b) 6 percent who had job contracts that were not renewed, (c) 2 percent who were laid off, (d) 1 percent whose employer closed shop, and (e) 4 percent looking for a job for the first time.
The 9 percent total in categories (b), (c) and (d) are those who involuntarily lost their jobs; these are the “retrenched,” or the casualties of a sluggish economy. They account for less than half of the Jobless. The high rate of first-time job seekers is the inevitable consequence of overly rapid population growth.
SWS has asked for job history in 11 surveys since 2011, and found resignations as the dominant category in nine of them (not in BusinessWorld; see www.sws.org.ph). So far, survey respondents who voluntarily resigned their jobs have not been asked to explain why they did so. Considering the great magnitude of resignations, SWS will consider some survey questions on this matter in the future.
Job dissatisfaction. In the meantime, I see no cause to doubt that the respondents are honest in saying that they quit their jobs on their own. I think the resignations are a manifestation of massive dissatisfaction with jobs, most probably due more to the generally low monetary compensation than to other aspects of their jobs.
In my opinion, the wages of workers in the Philippines are low by general world standards. Moreover, because the bargaining power of the labor sector is quite weak—except for a few occupations, particularly in finance—workers’ wages have a hard time keeping up with the cost of
living. With every burst of inflation, the real value of wages falls, and workers must struggle to recover. Why should employees be loyal to employers who are stingy with wage adjustments, even as the prices of their goods and services float upwards with the general tide?
I do not believe the perennial, self-serving complaints from the business sector that Filipino workers’ wages are already too high and uncompetitive. I urge “development experts” to recognize high wages as a sign of economic success, not a handicap.
Differentiating SWS and official figures: the time dimension. The word “Joblessness” is capitalized here to distinguish it from the official definition of Unemployment. The latest official Unemployment rate is 7.0 percent, as of April 2014. The official rate and the SWS rate are different in several respects.
The most important reason for the difference is that the Jobless of SWS are those who have no job at present (“walang trabaho sa kasalukuyan”)—i.e., at the time they were surveyed—and are looking for a job. On the other hand, the officially Unemployed are those who, in the week before being surveyed, did not work for even one hour, and are looking for work (see my “Is one hour a week a ‘job’?” Opinion, 5/26/2012). Note that actively looking for work is a common to both the official and the SWS definitions.
Most likely, many of the SWS Jobless did some work for pay last week. Perhaps they will get to do some work for pay this week. But whatever their work last week, and whatever their work prospects for this week, the fact remains that they said No when asked if they have a job NOW, and then YES when asked if they are looking for a job. On the other hand, unless absolutely idle last week, they would be officially counted as Employed (see my “Joblessness versus idleness,” Opinion, 10/12/2013).
The availability dimension. Moreover, even persons completely idle are officially considered employed if: (a) they say that it is due to temporary illness, injury, or vacation, or (b) they expect to report for work or to start a business within the next two weeks.
If SWS counts those temporarily not at work as having jobs, and those looking for work, but not available within two weeks, as outside the labor force, the resulting Joblessness-of-the-available rate is 15.2 percent—closer to, but still more than double, the official Unemployment rate. This means that the time dimension is more responsible than the availability dimension for the difference.
The official unemployment rate appears low, because people, most of all the poor, seize every opportunity to earn income, even if the work is only for a few hours a week. The SWS jobless rate is realistic, because many people are so dissatisfied with their jobs that they easily quit and search for better ones.
The age dimension. The SWS statistics on Joblessness are a by-product of the Social Weather Surveys. Since the latter primarily focus on public attitudes and opinions, their primary respondents are persons of voting age, the worldwide standard for defining the adults of a country.
Thus SWS Joblessness refers to persons at least 18 years old, whereas official Unemployment refers to those at least 15 years old, the official minimum age for being employed. Correcting for this definitional difference would raise the SWS rate, because Joblessness (and Unemployment) is generally worse among the youth. So it does not account for the gap between the two rates. What does is the unrealistic official time dimension.
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