By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
No jobs, no future.
The country’s one and only congressman directly representing the youth and students sector recently called on President Benigno Aquino III to provide jobs for the 400,000 fresh graduates or run the risk of damaging their chances for a good future.
Kabataan Representative Raymond Palatino said President Aquino should improve his government’s employment program. Palatino said the fresh batch of graduates now face the daunting challenge of finding quality employment.
“In a country where quality jobs are scarce, finding a job will be a real challenge for our new graduates. I urge President Aquino to improve its job generation plan for our graduates and unveil this plan to the public,” Palatino said.
According to Palatino, the measures currently being undertaken by the Aquino administration are not enough to address the perpetually increasing need for quality employment. He said it is not enough that the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has begun conducting career orientation and employment coaching through seminars.
“More than seminars, what the Aquino government should ensure is the availability of quality jobs for our graduates. No amount of coaching would be useful if majority of our graduates could not find jobs in the end,” he said, adding that the president should make greater effort in generating jobs.
Palatino said the latest data on youth employment was most disheartening. He said that as of 2010, official figures indicate that the country has around 2.8 million unemployed Filipinos, half of which are aged between 15-24 years old while a third are 25 to 34 years old.
“The talents and skills of our youth will only go to waste if decent work is not provided to them,” Palatino said.
Palatino explained that compounding the problem of unemployment is the increase in part-time or contractual work especially after the explosion of the global economic crisis in 2008.
According to DOLE itself, the average number of underemployed persons with less than 40 hours of work per week has increased from 11.9 million in 2008 to 12.9 million in 2009. Of the 12.9 million, as much as 4.6 million work for less than 20 hours per week.
“The increasing number of jobseekers have no choice but to accept underemployment in the form of part-time or contractual work. It is an issue as urgent as unemployment because it indicates much about the availability of quality work in the country. In contractual labor schemes, workers are subjected to various malpractices – they are forced to forego their just demand for higher pay or job security because of threats of being fired or laid-off and be immediately replaced,” he said.
Palatino said that despite the already grim statistics and the less than encouraging employment climate, the Aquino government has yet to make any substantial action to remedy it.
Palatino also lamented that President Aquino has yet to break away from the ineffective labor policies of the previous administration under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo such as aggressive labor expor. He said it seems that the Aquino government also considers forced migration as the solution to the country’s unemployment problem.
“Forced migration can never be a sound solution to unemployment. The lives of so many Filipinos are put at risk when they work abroad. The recent execution of the three overseas Filipino workers in China is another page in the long, tragic history of the country as a labor exporter,” Palatino said.
Palatino said that in stead of the Aquino government pursuing the labor export policy, it should work for national industrialization not only to generate jobs but to achieve national development.
“The country’s backward and foreign-dominated economy cannot be transformed through labor export and the presence of more foreign corporations. We have to develop our own industries created through the untapped potential and strength of our labor force,” Palatino said.
More Youth Forced to Leave School to Work
But even as lawmakers like Palatino call for employment generation, it has been revealed that more and more Filipino youth are being forced to stop formal education altogether to work to support their families.
The recent report of the International Labor Organization (ILO) revealed that in the last three years, the dropout rate for elementary students (aged 6 to 15) increased to 6.28 percent (period of 2009-2010) from 5.99 percent (period of 2007-2008). Among the main reasons cited was the need to work to help augment their families’ income. The most cited reasons for children dropping out of school are loss of interest in education and not having enough money in the household to support their education.
According to ILO director in the Philippines Jeff Johnson, poor families have no choice but to send their children to work in order to just survive.
“And as such, child laborers are often forced to drop out of school.”
Johnson said it is lamentable how some parents justify forcing their children to work by saying that they are teaching their children to be responsible. He said the ILO is not against 16- or 17-year olds working, but they should not be forced to develop hard work habits at that age especially since working directly interferes with their education.
According to ILO principles, there is child labor when a person younger than 18 is utilized for exploitative, clandestine operations that are unsupervised and are a burden for the individual’s age and capabilities. The ILO estimates that there are 215 million child laborers worldwide as of 2010. The Philippine Labor Force Survey in April 2010 states that are 2.4 million child workers in the country.
Data from the ILO also reveals that of the world’s estimated 211 million unemployed people in 2009, nearly 40 per cent—or about 81 million—are between 15 and 24 years of age.
“ More youth are poor or underemployed than ever before: some 152 million young people work but live in households that earn less than the equivalent of US$1.25 per day. Millions of young people are trapped in temporary and involuntary part-time or casual work that offers few benefits and limited prospects for advancement at work and in life,” the agency said.