Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Volume IV,  Number 10               April 4 - 10, 2004            Quezon City, Philippines


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Fresh Graduates Comprise Bulk of Jobless

How can graduation be a cause for celebration when most of those unemployed are actually fresh graduates and those fortunate enough to be employed have to make do with low wages amid high cost of living?


For students and parents, graduation is a cause for celebration. Who wouldn’t be relieved to know that after years of study and the ordeal of having to pay high tuition, the diploma will be finally awarded which can serve either as a ticket to higher education or better employment terms?

While graduates should be commended for their hard work and determination to finish their courses, better employment terms may remain a pipe dream for most of them.

As of January 2004, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) reports that there are 3.9 million unemployed Filipinos. Of this number, 1.8 million (or 46 percent) are aged 15 to 24 years old. These are mostly fresh high school and college graduates who should be employed so that their newly acquired skills and knowledge would be maximized.

Analyzing the reasons for being unemployed, the DoLE stresses that 29 percent of unemployed persons surveyed said that they believe there is “no work available.” Around 22 percent said that their being unemployed is due to “temporary illness or disability.” Other reasons stated were “awaiting results of previous job application” (17 percent), “waiting for rehire/job recall” (14 percent), and “bad weather” (1 percent). A substantial number (18 percent) were lumped under “others.”

It is apparent that due to the labor situation, unemployed Filipinos are already resigned to the fact that there is almost always no vacancy in their fields of specialization.


What proves to be alarming, however, is that more than one-fifth of those who are out of work have gotten sick or disabled. Their deteriorating physical health should be analyzed in the context of work arrangements that they had to endure when they were still employed. It is highly possible that they contracted such diseases and incurred their disability (permanent or temporary) as a result of their employer’s failure to comply with safety requirements for workers.

Those who are fortunate enough to be employed, however, are not automatically guaranteed steady income, no matter how low it may be. Of the 31.5-million employed Filipinos, 16.7 million (53 percent) are wage and salary workers. The rest are own-account (11.7 million or 37 percent of total employed) and unpaid family workers (3.1 million or 10 percent).

While there is an increase in the percentage share of wage and salary workers compared to the previous year’s 48 percent it still cannot be denied that up to now, employed Filipinos still have to make do with low wages.

The daily minimum wage rate for non-agricultural workers currently ranges from P140 or $2.49 (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM) to P280 or $4.99 (National Capital Region or NCR). (The conversion is based on an exchange rate of P56.14 for every U.S. dollar.)

As of February 2004, however, the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) reports that a family of six in the ARMM needs at least P748 ($13.32) per day to fulfill food and non-food requirements. For those living in the NCR, the family living wage is pegged at P594 ($10.58) per day.

Based on these data, a minimum wage earner, no matter where he or she goes in the country, cannot provide for the needs of a family of six. Neither can the combined income of parents suffice if they both earn only minimum wage.

Indeed, today’s graduates are given a crash course on the harsh realities of the country’s chronic crisis. If there is one lesson that can be drawn from the sorry employment situation, it is the need to join the concerted action for wage increases and better job opportunities, if only to make sure that their families will eventually get the prosperity they deserve. Bulatlat.com

Labor Force Survey
January 2003 and January 2004
(in thousands)







     Wage and salary






     Unpaid family worker






     15-24 years old



     25-34 years old



     35-44 years old



     45-54 years old



     55-64 years old



     65 years old and over



     Not reported



Source: Department of Labor and Employment

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