Philippines: Jobless rate rises to 6.6% in Jan

MANILA, Philippines –  The number of unemployed Filipinos swelled in January after typhoons during the tailend of 2016 caused many farm workers to lose jobs, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said yesterday.

The January 2017 Labor Force Survey of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed the nationwide unemployment rate rose to 6.6 percent from 5.7 percent in the same month last year.

The employment rate fell to 93.4 percent in January 2017 from 94.3 percent last year. This translates to 39.3 million Filipinos currently working part time or full time.

“We mainly observe the employment losses in the agriculture sector, which has been greatly affected by typhoons Nina and Auring that hit our country last December and January,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia.

The agriculture sector is a big source of livelihood for Filipinos, comprising a fourth of the country’s total employed. As such, the government must focus on diversifying the sources of income of workers in the sector, increase the participation of women, and address youth unemployment, said Pernia.

Other than the jobs shed in the farming sector, the increase in unemployment was also the result of the termination of temporary jobs related to the election year. NEDA noted the same effect on the unemployment rate in January 2011, the year that followed the 2010 elections.

Most Filipinos who found themselves jobless in January were those having only an elementary education, followed by those with only high school education.

Out of those employed in January, meanwhile, fewer were underemployed or those looking for more work to supplement their income. The underemployment rate for the period fell to 16.3 percent from 19.6 percent in the same period last year.

NEDA expects the long pipeline of infrastructure projects in the country to give job creation a boost especially if the 24/7 work mode on these projects are implemented.

As several of these projects would be funded by foreign loans, Pernia said it must be ensured that foreign contractors agree to recruit Filipino technical and blue collar workers.

Interventions have also been laid down in the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 for addressing underemployment among the youth, said Pernia.

This entails strengthening linkages between vocational and technical schools and state universities and colleges for providing access to a greater number of trainees.

The country currently has a large population that can be shaped into able and productive workers as indicated by the increase to 69.4 million from 67.9 million of the labor force population aged 15 years old and above. This comprises working age Filipinos who are both employed and unemployed.

Out of this number, only 60.7 percent are actively working or are actively looking for work as indicated by the labor force participation rate for January 2017, which was lower than 63.6 percent in the same period last year.

Pernia said the government must invest in the skills development of workers to enable more Filipinos to find gainful employment.

“Policy and regulatory changes can also adversely affect employment. Government must continue skills development and retooling programs through continuing education and training for the affected workers, and adjust policies where warranted,” said Pernia.

Source: http://www.philstar.com/business/2017/03/15/1681124/jobless-rate-rises-6.6-jan