“Official unemployment figures do not reflect the discouraged workers or those who have dropped out of the labor force after failing to find work after six months.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – The country’s job crisis has intensified under the Duterte administration. The research group IBON belied the seeming conclusion one may get from hearing the supposed decline in number of unemployed and increase in number of employed. Not that it does not want to report improvements in the economy.
IBON has proposed a number of policy reforms to counter and correct what its 40 years of studies show have been ailing the Philippine economy. Some of these proposed, “doable” policies are included in the Socio-Economic Reforms that would have been on the negotiating table had President Duterte not postponed the peace talks.
Some of these have been initialed by the technical working committees of the peace panels of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in back-channel talks the past few months. These pertain to agricultural reform and national industrialization. If implemented, the parties said, it would create jobs and bring real, sustainable growth.
But absent such reforms, the country’s jobs data continue to worsen no matter how the news was spun in the presentation. In the latest jobs data, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that the employment rate grew slightly to 94.5 percent in April 2018, while the unemployment rate was lower at 5.5 percent.
The PSA presented the jobs situation like it has improved as the number of employed Filipinos rose by 625,000 and the number of unemployed declined by 83,000. But this is underestimated, IBON said. The data did not count the other mass of certified unemployed.
“Official unemployment figures do not reflect the discouraged workers or those who have dropped out of the labor force after failing to find work after six months,” IBON explained.
Correcting the government’s underestimation, the number of unemployed actually grew by 82,000 to 4.1 million in April 2018 from 4 million in April 2017.
Suggesting an even bigger problem in the economy, the jobs in the country’s production sectors are shrinking. And, the jobs that there are are mostly of poor quality, insecure and low-paying.
An economy shedding jobs amid hyped ‘growth’
Like the previous administration,- which hyped up the reported growth figures, the Duterte government sounded proud of the 6.8 percent recorded growth in the first quarter of 2018.
Yet this growth did not translate to jobs creation that could have provided income and basic needs to the growing population. On the contrary, the production sectors itself have been shedding jobs during the same period of reported growth.
The agriculture sector, the second largest source of jobs among the country’s sectors, recorded the most job losses, said IBON. Official data shows the number of employed in agriculture fell by 723,000 to 9.8 million in April 2018 from 10.5 million in April 2017.
This is not a new development for the country’s agriculture. IBON said the sector has recorded job losses in the past four consecutive rounds of labor force survey.
IBON added that the agriculture, hunting and forestry subsector lost 558,000 jobs, while fisheries lost 134,000.
“The fisheries subsector had notable job losses for all labor force survey rounds under the Duterte government.” On the ground, Bulatlat has reported some specific jobs losses among farming and fisherfolk who lost access to their fishing ground either due to government projects, or due to fierce competition with bigger foreign fishing vessels that the government allowed to fish in the country. Communities of farmers and indigenous peoples have also been losing access to their farmlands or to viable sources of water and irrigation. And there are the jobs lost to Duterte’s disaster economics such as the jobs lost in Boracay, in Marawi and in the no-build zones.
“Poor quality work or jobs that are insecure, lack benefits and have low wages persists,” said IBON. The number of underemployed or those looking for additional work increased by 466,000 from around 6.5 million in April 2017 to 6.9 million in April 2018.
IBON noted that among underemployed persons, those who worked 40 hours and over in a week grew by 758,000 from 2.4 million last year to 3.2 million this year. This indicate that they are not earning enough income to meet their basic needs, IBON noted.
In Bulatlat coverages of workers’ strikes and protests from Subic to Marilao to Calamba to TNC plantations in Mindanao, most of the workers involved are forced or compelled to work beyond eight hours each working day to augment their meager minimum pay.
The number of part-time Filipino workers working less than 40 hours in a week may have decreased. But they still comprised more than half (52.5 percent) of total underemployed in April 2018.
IBON also noted that nearly half or 47.1 percent of underemployed for this round were in the services sector, 32.4 percent in agriculture, and 20.5 percent in the industry sector. Both services and industry sectors registered increases in underemployed persons from April last year.
If the action of the officials of the Duterte administration related to jobs are any indication, its tact is the same as his predecessors: attracting foreign investments into the country by providing their required infrastructure, reducing corporate taxes, increasing business perks, exporting workers, and giving in to the employers’ groups refusal to adjust wages to inflation and productivity via contractualization, low minimum wages and harsh treatment of organized dissent.
In two years of the Duterte administration, the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) has recorded 29 victims of extrajudicial killings in the labor sector, more than twice the 12 victims of extrajudicial killings among workers and urban poor documented during the first two years of his predecessor.
The Duterte government has imposed martial law in Mindanao and all-out war elsewhere. Its police forces and military blatantly take the sides of the employers in labor disputes, as demonstrated in the recent violent dispersal of NutriAsia workers’ strike in Marilao, Bulacan, and before that, in industrial parks in Southern Tagalog and in corporate plantations in Mindanao.
IBON noted that the government has been content with minimal job generation in the non-productive sectors such as the kind on offer during job fairs. Rather than all these, IBON said, the government should ensure sustainable and decent jobs and livelihoods for Filipinos. “This can be done by embarking on a solid economic program that genuinely boosts the agriculture and fisheries sectors and develops the country’s vastly rural economy to build strong and vibrant domestic industries.”