Aside from statistically concealing millions of jobless workers through the use of a flawed methodology, the Arroyo regime makes the deception worse by claiming that the job situation, because of government policies and programs, has improved despite the global crisis.
By ARNOLD PADILLA
MANILA — The National Statistics Office (NSO) released last week the results of its April 2009 Labor Force Survey that showed the unemployment rate “improved” to 7.5 percent from 8 percent in the same survey period last year.
As expected, administration officials were quick to capitalize on the survey results. Officials of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), for instance, said that the “results of the NSO survey clearly proved that the government’s emergency employment programs enabled the workers to cope with the global financial crisis.”
“Improved” employment, as measured by the NSO, is actually deceptive because current official methodology deprives the public of a way to determine the real extent of job scarcity in the country.
Anyone who has worked for an hour, paid or unpaid, for the past week (before the NSO conducted its survey) is considered employed by government. Labor migration, a consequence of diminishing opportunities in the domestic labor market, is not factored in measuring unemployment. Discouraged workers and those not willing or available for work, even if they have become disheartened after repeated failures to land a job, are not taken into account as well.
Furthermore, many are automatically excluded from the labor force such as the housewives and students without taking into consideration their potential as active section of the local workforce if socioeconomic conditions were favorable.
These are just some of the issues that challenge the veracity of official employment data. Not surprisingly, independent surveys, like the one conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) last February, place unemployment rate at much higher levels. The SWS survey pegged unemployment at an all-time high of 34.2 percent or about 14 million workers.
But aside from statistically concealing millions of jobless workers through the use of a flawed methodology, the Arroyo administration makes the deception worse by claiming that the job situation, because of government policies and programs, has improved despite the global crisis.
The statement by DOLE officials echoes the oft-repeated assertion of Mrs. Arroyo that amid the crisis “we are holding our own” and that “our resources and plans will allow us to manage our ways through this difficult time.”
DOLE Secretary Marianito Roque gave credit to government’s job generation and preservation measures for the favorable Labor Force Survey results. He cited the Comprehensive Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program (CLEEP) that employs low-income and unemployed workers in various government projects.
Another major intervention is Executive Order 782 that directed all government agencies to allocate and utilize 1.5 percent of their budget for operating expenses for the temporary hiring of qualified displaced workers and their dependents. The administration, Roque said, also intensified the provision of training scholarships to equip worker-beneficiaries with skills that are essential in their search for jobs.
To what extent has government’s intervention helped “improve” the situation of the domestic labor market? For the sole purpose of answering this question, let us review, at face value, the results of the Labor Force Survey in April 2009 and compare them with the results of the April 2008 survey.
Self-Employment and Unpaid Family Work
All in all, the number of employed persons grew by 1.46 million. But a look at the number of jobs created per class of worker would immediately dispel claims by government that its intervention boosted the generation of additional jobs.
Of the total number of increase in employed persons, self-employment accounted for a huge 56.4 percent while unpaid family work accounted for 26.9 percent. Additional employment in the public sector comprised only 12.8 percent of the total increase in employment while those in private establishments covered merely 8.6 percent.
In addition, wage and salary work in private households, which include domestic helpers, family drivers, etc., accounted for 9.5 percent of the total increase in jobs, even higher than the additional wage and salary work in private firms.