Worsen under Arroyo
The worsening joblessness and
underemployment reflect the backward and crisis-ridden state of the
economy. It shows the folly of the neo-liberal policies of privatization,
liberalization, and deregulation, not to mention the inability of the
Arroyo administration in addressing poverty.
BY BENJIE OLIVEROS
FOOD AT THE DUMP: People
scavenging at the garbage dumps for crumbs of food underscore the
extent of hunger to which the majority of the people in the
Philippines have descended
A study by Ibon
Foundation reveals that the Arroyo administration has the worst sustained
joblessness rates compared to previous administrations after registering
an 11.4 percent unemployment rate in 2005. The unemployment rate has been
registering double digit figures since 2001. It was able to claim a
single digit figure, an adjusted rate of 7.7 percent for 2005, only after
shifting to a “new” definition to exclude those not “actively seeking for
While it claimed a
slight improvement in January this year, 10.7 percent by the old
definition and 7.4 percent by the new definition, an analysis of the
750,000 jobs it supposedly generated in 2005 shows that the country fared
no better. Data from the National Statistics Office (NSO) shows that
51.86 percent or 389,000 of the jobs created were in unpaid family work
mostly in agriculture. Another 35.06 percent or 263,000 were in the
own-account category. Thus, a mere 13.06 percent or 98,000 jobs generated
since January last year were wage and salary workers.
The number of wage
and salary workers already fell by 156,000 in 2005 as compared to 2004. On
the other hand, the number of own account and unpaid family workers
increased by 855,000 in 2005. Aside from this, the underemployment rate
is continuously increasing. From 17 percent of the total labor force in
2004, it increased to 21 percent in 2005. Underemployment for January 2006
is at 21.3 percent or 6.9 million workers, an increase of
1.8 million from its 5.1-million level in
In interviews with
BusinessWorld, Prof. Solita Monsod of the University of the
Philippines School of Economics said that the “quality of jobs created is
not good.” University of Asia and the Pacific economist Stephen Huang said
that the “jobs created were not productive or does not add to the
press release, Ibon Foundation said, “Even these already alarming figures
do not reveal the true extent of joblessness in the country. Ibon
estimates that the actual employment rate in the country is only 58.4%
instead of the official 91.9%, while 41.6% suffer from job scarcity
(including the underemployed, workers who leave for jobs abroad, and
housewives and other sectors considered ‘not in the labor force’ but would
work if only jobs were available).”
clearly belies the Arroyo government’s claims that the economy is on the
right track and makes irrelevant the 6.1 percent growth in the gross
domestic product (GDP) in the fourth quarter of 2005.
joblessness and underemployment reflect the backward and crisis-ridden
state of the economy. It shows the folly of the neoliberal policies of
privatization, liberalization, and deregulation, not to mention the
inability of the Arroyo administration in addressing poverty.
government’s statistics on poverty are likewise unbelievable. The latest
data of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) shows that 30.4
percent of Filipinos are poor in 2003, an improvement from the 33 percent
registered in 2000.
this is due to the very low minimum annual per capita income. In 2003, the
NSCB claims that the threshold is at P12,475 ($243.37, based on an
exchange rate of P51.26 for every US dollar) for the whole country and
P14,178 ($276.59) in urban areas. For 2004, it set the national threshold
at P13,113 ($255.81), of which P8,734 ($170.39) was intended for
sustaining food needs and the balance of P4,379 ($85.43), for other basic
this threshold, a family of five needs a regular income of P65,565
($1,279.07) yearly or P5,464 ($106.59) monthly to meet essential needs.
This translates to a P1,092
($21.30) monthly income or a P36 ($0.70) daily income for every person.
For the food budget,
NSCB claims that P727 ($14.18) per month or P24 ($0.47) per day is enough
for someone to survive. How on earth can he or she survive with this
amount? What food can one eat with P24 ($0.47) per day or P8 ($0.16) per
meal? How can a P365 ($7.12) monthly or P12 ($0.23) daily budget suffice
to pay for utilities, personal necessities, transportation, clothing, and
rent, not to mention education and health needs? The minimum fare for a
jeepney alone is already P7.50 ($0.15).
The NSCB also claims
that a minimum wage worker in Metro Manila earning P325 ($6.34) daily can
support a family of five. However, workers have been demanding a P125
($2.44) across-the-board nationwide increase since 1999 since wages are
not enough to meet high cost of living requirements.
For beyond government
statistics, which are being manipulated to paint a rosy picture, are the
views and experiences of the people themselves. The 4th
quarter 2005 survey of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) reveals that
rose to 57%, from 49% in the Third Quarter. It has fluctuated between 46%
and 58% since the start of 2004.
In a media release, the SWS
survey said that, “The
Filipino households experiencing hunger hit an alarming 16.7% last quarter
(of 2005), a new record high from the time SWS began surveying hunger in
mid-1998. It has now been in double-digits for seven consecutive
The new record
level of hunger, the SWS said, was due to an increase in Severe Hunger.
The latter, defined as families going hungry Often or Always in the last
three months, was at 3.9% in December 2005, affecting approximately over
600,000 families. This reflected an increase from the 2.6% registered in
Hunger, defined as those experiencing it Once or A Few Times in the last
three months, was at 12.8% in December 2005, affecting 2.1 million
families. It was a very slight decrease from 12.9% in August 2005.
How then can
the Arroyo government address poverty when its policies cause the economy
to lose wage and salary jobs steadily? How can an increase in unpaid
family work and own-account jobs enable a family to rise from poverty?
much-trumpeted business process outsourcing jobs, such as call centers and
medical transcription, cannot provide employment for the millions of
unemployed and underemployed Filipinos. Aside from this, call centers in
particular employ mainly graduates from reputable schools because of its
strict English proficiency requirements.
It is not surprising
then that more and more Filipinos are intending to work or migrate
But how many overseas
Filipino workers (OFW) can be accommodated abroad? While OFW remittances
prop up the economy especially the gross national product (GNP), the
balance of payments (BOP) position and the gross international reserves (GIR),
overseas work does not strengthen the fundamentals of the economy,
particularly domestic employment. And while it provides relief from
poverty to families of OFWs, the effect is temporary. Once the OFW is
unable to work abroad, these families are back to where they were before
except for a few.
The worsening state
of unemployment, underemployment, poverty and hunger clearly shows the
need for radical solutions. The country has followed essentially the same
economic program for 60 years: export of raw materials and semi-processed
goods, dependence on imports for finished goods such as machinery, oil and
consumer durables, reliance on foreign investments for capital and
technology, etc. And the country has remained backward, agricultural,
pre-industrial, cash-strapped and capital-deficient. It never brought the
country any nearer to industrialization and prosperity.
The country needs
nothing less than radical solutions.
But the solution does
not lie in the charter change (Cha Cha) initiatives of the Arroyo
administration. Politically, it is a way to keep the incumbent in
Malacanang by skirting the issue of legitimacy hounding Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
and by providing her with more power, that of the president and prime
minister combined. It is also an attempt to water down the Bill of Rights
provisions of the 1987 Constitution.
Worse, it is a
concession to her most reliable ally, the U.S. government. The proposed
amendments practically reverse the hard-earned victory of the Filipino
people when they rejected the continued stay of the U.S. military bases in
the country. Gone will be the provisions disallowing foreign military
bases and nuclear weapons in the country.
change merely enhances the neoliberal polices of the administration by
removing all restrictions on foreign capitalists from owning land,
exploiting our natural resources, and extracting profit from the provision
of basic utilities and services. These are the very same policies that put
the country deeper and deeper into crisis and backwardness.
The solution lies in
freeing the majority of the Filipino people from feudal bondage and
backwardness through a genuine agrarian reform program and rural
industrialization; optimizing local capital to enable the country to
produce the needs of the domestic market and the local economy and provide
gainful employment to the populace through nationalist industrialization;
judicious use of our natural resources for local industry; developing our
human resources through a scientific, patriotic, and democratic culture;
undertaking an independent, mutually beneficial foreign policy and
relations; installing a patriotic and pro-people government and
instituting a sovereign and democratic constitution.
In the last five
years, the Arroyo administration has shown that it will never undertake
these measures. On the contrary, it has pursued the very same policies
that are causing widespread poverty and has engaged in nothing more than
transactional politics to appease its allies. What then is left for the
Filipino people to do? Bulatlat
PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION ■
© 2006 Bulatlat
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