The Philippine unemployment rate rose to 3.9%, equivalent to two million jobless Filipinos, in March. — PHILIPPINE STAR/WALTER BOLLOZOS

THE global unemployment rate is expected to drop to 4.9% this year, but the International Labor Organization (ILO) expressed concern over the “large” jobs gap.

“The global unemployment rate is projected at 4.9% in 2024, slightly lower than in 2023 (5%) and a downward revision from the previous projection of 5.2%, but the trend is now flat,” the ILO said in the World Employment and Social Outlook: May 2024 update.

An unemployment rate of 4.9% is equivalent to 183 million persons without jobs this year.

The ILO said the projection was revised to due to the “lower-than-expected unemployment rates in China, India, and high-income countries.”

“The lack of progress in further reducing labor underutilization is worrying as employment deficits are still large. The latest ILO estimates of the jobs gap show that 402 million persons are without a job but wanting to work in 2024,” it said.

For Asia and the Pacific, the ILO projects a 4.2% unemployment rate, unchanged from 2023.

IBON Foundation Executive Director Jose Enrique “Sonny” A. Africa in a Viber message to BusinessWorld said the ILO report mirrors the Philippine situation.

“Lower unemployment rates are insufficient if a large chunk of the population is working in precarious low-quality jobs — the worst being the millions of unpaid family workers — and if large numbers of jobless are not officially counted as unemployed,” he said.

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported the unemployment rate rose to 3.9%, equivalent to two million jobless Filipinos, in March. This was higher than the 3.5% in February, and the 4.7% a year ago.

In the first quarter, the jobless rate averaged 4% compared with 4.8% a year earlier.

However, IBON Foundation estimated that 19.2 million Filipinos or 40% of total employed persons were in openly informal work during the first quarter. This does not include the 16-18 million more wage workers in unregulated informal establishments.

“This implies that over 70% of reported work in the country is actually low-earning, irregular, and informal,” Mr. Africa said.

In the same report, the ILO said gender inequality persists in the global labor market, particularly in developing countries.

According to the ILO, 45.6% of women (aged 15 and above) are employed compared to 69.2% of men, a gap of 23.6 percentage points.

The gap mainly stems from family responsibilities, the ILO said, saying that “women’s disproportionate share of unpaid care work plays a major role in shaping gender employment gaps globally.”

“Even when women are employed, they receive sizably lower labor income than men — especially in the developing world. In high-income countries, employed women earn 73 cents to the dollar compared to employed men. In low-income countries, women earn just 44 cents to the dollar,” the ILO said.

Mr. Africa said the barriers faced by female workers in the Philippines are “exacerbated by poor public investment in social infrastructure such as childcare and eldercare services, because of their bearing a disproportionate burden of unpaid care work.”

He noted the labor and poverty problems won’t be fixed by “band-aid social programs.”

“The root causes of underdevelopment have to be tackled with land reform, national industrialization policy, and significant public investment in social services,” he said.

Mr. Africa said a progressive tax system, expansion of public education, health, housing, social protection, and wage hikes can benefit workers and lessen inequality. — Chloe Mari A. Hufana