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Fewer Filipinos unemployed -- SWS

Posted on April 29, 2015

UNEMPLOYMENT fell to its lowest in four-and-a-half years, while more Filipinos said job prospects should further improve in the next 12 months, according to the latest quarterly survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS).

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Results of a March 20-23 survey among 1,200 respondents nationwide showed the joblessness rate at 19.1%, or about 9 million adults. That’s about one in every five adult Filipinos without jobs in the first quarter, and nearly 8 percentage points down from the 27% (or an estimated 12.4 million adults) recorded last December, when an earlier survey was made.

The SWS employed sampling error margins of ±3% for national percentages; ±6% each for Metro Manila, “Balance Luzon,” Visayas, and Mindanao.

That unemployment reading is the softest in four-and-a-half years, falling second since the lowest rate recorded in September 2010 at 18.9%.

The SWS said adult joblessness has been on a downward trend since the record-high 34.4% clocked in March 2012.

Optimism about job availability in the next 12 months -- computed as those who think there will be more jobs minus those who believe jobs will be fewer -- rose to a “high” +20 from a “fair” +16 last December, the highest recorded since November 2010 (+36).

The survey found 38% of adults said the number of job openings will rise, 31% think it will not change, and 18% believe there will be fewer hirings.

The SWS describes as “very high” a net optimism score of +30 and above; +20 to +29, “high”; +10 to +19, “fair”; +1 to +9, “mediocre”; -9 to zero, “low”; and -10 and down, “very low”.

Labor secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz said the softer jobless number shows the economy is creating jobs and that the poor are not left out as growth sizzles. The Aquino government’s public-private partnership projects are helping boost employment, she said.

“All combined, we can expect sustained low joblessness. Our economic growth is really accompanied by jobs,” Ms. Baldoz said by phone.

In a mobile phone reply, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio B. Coloma, Jr. said: “Government’s intensive job generation efforts have brought forth more productive opportunities, thereby reducing joblessness. Skills training and job matching programs are also paying off.”

Economist and former Budget secretary Benjamin E. Diokno, however, described the latest survey results as “surprising,” adding that he is “not aware of any significant number of jobs created.”

And while the job numbers look encouraging, a labor expert was skeptic about the quality of jobs the economy added.

“You may have low unemployment but high underemployment,” Rene E. Ofreneo, director of the Center for Labor Justice at the University of the Philippines School of Labor and Industrial Relations, said in a phone interview.

“But I wonder if the increase in employment is due to quality jobs or jobs just to get by.”

Two labor groups echo Mr. Ofreneo’s views.

“These numbers are good but these are still insignificant because majority of which are contractuals. These are not quality, decent jobs,” Alan A. Tanjusay, spokesperson of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines-Nagkaisa faction, said in a text message.

“Quality jobs are those that are permanent, receiving living wages that can sustain food and non-food requirements of a family of five.”

Renato B. Magtubo, national chairperson of Partido Manggagawa, meanwhile said:

“Workers finding work locally are most likely be motivated to stay while waiting for opportunities to come or just wanted to stay for a while in order to gain experience in preparation to engage in a more meaningful job when the time comes.”

Broken down further, the 19.1% adult joblessness rate consists of 7% (3.2 million) who voluntarily left their jobs from last quarter’s 14%; 8% (3.7 million) were retrenched, slightly lower than December’s 9%, while first-time job seekers inched up to 4% (2.1 million) from 3%.

Joblessness among women was recorded at 27.6% in March, down 14.1 points from 41.7% in December. Among men, only 12.2% were jobless, also down from 15.6%.

By age group, the joblessness rate among those 45 years and above was 8%, down from last quarter’s 19% and the lowest since March 2005.

Among the 35-44 age bracket, 16% said they were jobless, down from 16%, and among the 25-34 bracket, 28% (from 32%).

The joblessness rate, however, rose among those in the 18-24 age group to 50% from last quarter’s 48%.

The SWS’ definition of joblessness differs from that used by the government.

SWS respondents are at least 18 years old compared to the lower official boundary of 15 years of age used by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). In the SWS survey, persons with jobs are those currently working, including unpaid family members.

SWS defines joblessness based on two traditional qualifications: without a job at present and looking for a job. Those not working, without a job but not looking for one (housewives, students, etc.), are excluded.

PSA’s Labor Force Survey, meanwhile, defines the unemployed using three concepts: not working, looking for work and available for work. Those not available for work, even though looking, are excluded, and those available for work but not seeking it (for reasons such as illness or waiting for results of a job interview, etc.) are included.

Using the government’s definition, the SWS said, joblessness among adults -- 18 years old and above -- as of March was 12.4%, equivalent to an about 5.4 million Filipinos. That is 11.4% (estimated 5 million adults) who were not working, looking for work, and available for work, as well as another 1% (estimated 420,000 adults) who were not working, and not looking for work but available for work. -- Melissa Luz T. Lopez and Alden M. Monzon