1.4M jobs loss stresses need to strengthen local agri, Filipino industries – IBON

March 9, 2024

by IBON Foundation

Research group IBON said that recent labor force data showing a drop in employed persons, combined with the phenomenal decrease in labor force participants and the swelling number of those not in the labor force, indicates a growing number of discouraged Filipino workers. The group reiterated that to arrest the jobs crisis and for the economy to create gainful jobs, government should focus on the development of domestic agriculture and Filipino industries, instead of enticing the narrow profit-seeking interests of foreign investors.

IBON said that labor force figures from January 2023 to January 2024 reveal that there is a substantial number of jobless Filipinos dropping out of the labor force due to poor work prospects. The number of employed persons fell by a huge 1.4 million to 45.9 million from 47.4 million. The labor force contracted by 1.6 million to 48.1 million, while those classified as not in the labor force increased by a whopping 3.2 million to 30.6 million. This is despite the number of working age Filipinos or population 15 years old and above growing by 1.6 million to 78.7 million.

In the same period, the reported number of unemployed decreased by 228,000 to 2.2 million from 2.4 million. IBON said that this is likely due to unemployed Filipinos leaving the labor force and no longer being counted among the officially unemployed. Meanwhile, the number of underemployed decreased by 260,000 to 6.4 million.

IBON also observed that a significant number of job losses were mainly in informal work. Self-employed persons fell by one million to 11.8 million, while unpaid family workers fell by 1.7 million to 2.1 million.

By hours worked, part-time jobs in agriculture dropped by 1.4 million, and in wholesale and retail trade by 1.3 million, likely because of the end of the cropping and holiday seasons, respectively, said IBON.

Job losses were also mainly in sectors known for precarious work. The number of those working in wholesale and retail trade fell by 1.5 million to 9 million, and those working in agriculture, forestry and fishing by 697,000 to 9.8 million.

The group also noted that employment in manufacturing decreased by 151,000 to 3.5 million. Taken together with the job losses in agriculture, IBON said that the poor job creation in these production sectors shows how weak the Philippine economy is. To generate sustainable and decent employment, government should direct resources and support into boosting domestic agriculture and industries that serve and produce the Filipino people’s needs, instead of simply relying on imports and foreign investments.

IBON said that decades of government obsession with foreign investment liberalization have not delivered on the promised benefits for the poor and vulnerable Filipinos. Such obsession is actually stunting national development. For the current administration to stay on the same failing course makes it difficult for the Philippine economy to create jobs and only worsens the condition of the labor force.