Almost two weeks before the elections, the senatoriables on top of the surveys should prove their worth of the people’s votes and bare their economic development paradigm to address the lingering jobs crisis. We are calling on the people to look at the capacity of these candidates to make laws that will address the unemployment crisis, beyond their popularity and empty promises.
The National Statistics Office’s Labor Force Survey in January 2007 estimated that about 10 million Filipinos are unemployed or underemployed compared to 9.6 million only in January 2006. At least 1.5 million new workers are expected to enter the labor markets every year. The country faces the formidable challenge of not only to keep up with this deficit but also to create productive and better paying jobs.
Fulfilling the candidates’ promises of uplifting the lives of Filipinos is doomed to fail if the economy’s inability to provide full, productive and decent work to Filipinos will remain.
We are conducting an evaluation of the platform on unemployment of re-electionist Senators Kiko Pangilinan and Ralph Recto, former Cabinet Secretary Mike Defensor, former Senator Loren Legarda and former Rep. Chiz Escudero. We will announce our verdict to our members and the voting public during our rally on May 1 in Plaza Miranda.
We will evaluate the candidates’ legislative policies for for rural development since the poorest of the poor are living in the provinces, their industrialization and investment policies that would lead to full employment, fiscal and monetary policies that would promote equal growth on the workers’ income, and their public sector reform agenda as the government’s rationalization plan is set to lay off 30 percent of the public sector workers.
The Philippines witnessed high unemployment amidst low to moderate growth for the past 25 years. The country started flirting with market-oriented policies and the labor sector was left to fend for itself. The economy was having a harder time generating more jobs for every GDP growth since then.
In 2006, unemployment worsened despite a 5.4% growth in GDP. The full year average rate of unemployment was 7.9%, higher than the 7.7% full year average in 2005. The GDP has to post a higher growth to induce a 1% growth in employment as the country continues to fail in the jobs-growth treadmill.
The same NSO survey showed that of the 1.528 million jobs generated in January 2006 – January 2007, 1.47 million or 97% were jobs in the services sector. Industry gained only 96,000 jobs while agriculture lost 51,000 jobs.
The jobs lost in agriculture are disturbing as most of the poorest of the poor are in the rural areas. This explains the growing migration to the cities of people in the provinces, looking for jobs that are mostly located in the informal set up.
Wholesale and retail jobs account for the biggest chunk at 482,000 covering jobs in giant malls to street vendors, with the bulk most likely falling on the later. The next chunk comes from “household employment” at 309,000 that includes domestic helpers, family drivers and the like.
These jobs form a big part of the non-regular workers employed in the formal sector. But are these the jobs we want to generate?
The Asian Development Bank on the formal sector establishments in the Philippines showed the proportion of non-regular workers in total employment increased from about 20% in 1991 to about 28% in 1997. No wonder, the record of growth since the 1990s is disappointing as regards the income-expenditure inequality, a variable tightly linked to the distribution of labor earnings.
What is driving the labor market outcomes?
The increasing inequality between the rural and urban areas can be traced in part to the neglect of productivity-enhancing public investments in the rural areas. Limited investment in the face of a rapidly expanding labor force has led to slow growth in formal sector jobs.
The country enjoys relative labor abundance but the formal industry and services sectors are using capital intensive rather than labor-intensive processes.
The government has set a target of creating about 1.5 million jobs a year between 2004 and 2010, or a total of 10 million jobs by 2010. In the government’s Workforce Development Summit last year, it identified nine key employment-generating sectors – all in the services sector – cyberservices, aviation, agribusiness, health services, mining, creative industries, hotels and restaurants, medical tourism, and overseas employment.
This is simply not enough. Unless the government makes job creation a fundamental part of its economic agenda backed by time bound, feasible, and credible policies, the government will continue to boast of economic growth while the workers will suffer from lingering joblessness and poverty.