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

Volume IV,  Number 22              July 4 - 10, 2004            Quezon City, Philippines


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News Analysis
Arroyo Can Generate 6 Million Jobs, But…

How can the Arroyo administration generate six million jobs from 2004 to 2010? It would most likely be in the form of redefining the term “employment” in the country’s Labor Force Survey.


Can the administration create six million to 10 million jobs in six years? Political observers note that, along with the other promises of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in her inaugural speech last June 30, this target is too ambitious.

It must be stressed that around 1.3 million students graduate from college every year and that 5.0 million people are unemployed as of April 2004. Aside from this, 5.8 million of the 31.5-million employed are underemployed.

The figures are very alarming but, at this point, there is a need to review how the administration defines various technical terms. Reviewing the National Statistics Office’s (NSO) Technical Notes on the Labor Force Survey, there is a possibility that the six-million job target would be met for as long as employment terms adhere to government standards.

Defining employment

In the eyes of government, a person is employed if he or she works “even for one hour during the reference period for pay or profit, or work without pay on the farm or business enterprise operated by a member of the same household related by blood, marriage or adoption.” The reference period here refers to the “past seven days preceding the date of visit of the enumerator or interviewer.

In other words, a person who works for at least one hour in one week is already employed according to government standards. The definition also explains why unpaid family workers who number 3.7 million as of April 2004 are considered employed by the government.

In addition, a person who is not at work at the time of the survey is still considered employed if, at the time of the survey, he or she expects “to report for work or to start operation of a farm or business enterprise within two weeks from the date of the enumerator’s visit.”

This means that an unemployed person’s anticipation of a job in the immediate future is also enough reason for government to consider him or her employed.

The government also includes among the employed people “those who have a job or business but are not at work because of temporary illness/injury, vacation or other reasons.”

If government were to provide short-term, contractual jobs to Filipinos, they will be already employed due to its current standards. Low wages or even the absence of compensation is a non-issue as regards employment since even unpaid family work is considered an employment opportunity.

Indeed, in analyzing the government’s target vis-à-vis employment, it is not just the numbers that matter, but the quality of employment as well.

Defining underemployment

The NSO defines underemployed as “all employed persons who express the desire to have additional hours of work in their present job or an additional job, or to have a new job with longer working hours.” Those who are labeled “visibly underemployed,” according to the NSO, work for “less than 40 hours during the reference period and want additional hours of work.”

Of the 5.8-million underemployed, 3.9 million people are visibly underemployed. The latter constitutes about 12.3 percent of total employed Filipinos.

The data show a high degree of job dissatisfaction among those who are already employed, mainly brought about by low wages and high cost of living. If the terms of employment were acceptable and the cost of products and services affordable, a worker would not consider additional hours of work, an additional job, or a new job with longer working hours.

No jobs available?

Among the 5.0-million unemployed people, the April 2004 data show that 1.3 million were out of work because there is “no work available.” On the other hand, about 678,000 people said they were unemployed due to “temporary illness/disability.” There were 482,000 unemployed people “awaiting results of previous job application,” 424,000 were “waiting for rehire/job recall,” and 22,000 blamed their unemployment on “bad weather.” The reasons for the unemployment of 840,000 people were classified as “others.”

The general perception that there are no job vacancies mirrors the people’s pessimism over employment opportunities in this country. This explains why the number of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) continues to increase. The Arroyo administration is expected to depend on OFWs to acquire much-needed dollars.

In 2003, the OFW remittances reached $7.6 billion. For the first quarter of 2004, OFW remittances were pegged at $1.9 billion.

It must not be surprising if the administration will add as its achievements in terms of job generation the increase in the deployment of Filipinos overseas.

After all, it will have to do anything and everything to look good with the help of misleading statistics and “praise” releases. Bulatlat.com

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