‘Employment’ Up, but Little Gainful Work

When President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo delivers her next SoNA, she will no doubt count among her administration’s accomplishments the increase in employment rate from last year to this year. But the government’s own figures show that there was not much gainful employment generated in the past year.

Vol. VII, No. 23, July 15-21, 2007

When President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo delivers her State of the Nation Address (SoNA) this coming July 23, she will no doubt count among her administration’s accomplishments the increase in employment rate from last year to this year.

Unemployment rates had several times reached all-time highs under the Arroyo administration, especially during the President’s continuation of the term of deposed President Joseph Estrada (2001-2004). The growing unemployment rate was in fact one of the issues against Arroyo during the 2004 elections. In 2005, a change in the definition of unemployment effectively reduced the unemployment rates which had been among the smears in the record of the Arroyo administration thus far.

Arroyo may well be expected to use the statistics of increased employment from 2006 to 2007 as proof of improvement in the labor sector other than that which was semantically induced in 2005.

Based on the April 2006 and April 2007 Labor Force Surveys of the National Statistics Office (NSO), there was a growth in the country’s labor force (those 15 years old and above) from 54.98 million in April 2006 to 56.41 million in April 2007.

The increase in the size of the country’s labor force is taken into account in the comparative data from the NSO, which shows an increase in the employment rate from 91.8 percent in April 2006 to 92.8 percent in April 2007, or a decrease in the unemployment rates from 8.2 to 7.4 percent in the period between the two Labor Force Surveys. Likewise, there is supposed to have been a decrease in the number of the underemployed – or those working less than 40 hours a week – from 25.4 percent in April 2006 to 18.9 percent in April 2007.

The statistics look encouraging. But the real picture becomes clearer when the number of jobs generated for each category of employment is broken down.

As NSO Administrator Carmelita Ericta said in her explanation of the results of the April 2007 Labor Force Survey:

“Out of the estimated 56.4 million population 15 years and over in April 2007, approximately 36.4 million were in the labor force. These figures placed the labor force participation rate at 64.5 percent.

“The April 2007 employment rate of 92.6 percent implies that the total employed population was 33.7 million in April 2007. Almost half or 49.3 percent of the total employed in this period were in the services sector; about the same percentage was recorded in April 2006 (49.5 percent). The percentage of employed workers in the agriculture sector in April 2007 was 35.2 percent, while that for the industry sector was 15.6 percent.”

More precisely, the NSO’s data place the number of employed persons in the country at 32,699,000 in April 2006 and 33,706,000 in April 2007.

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