Research group IBON said latest labor force data show that the economy, despite reopening, is struggling to generate sufficient work. Additional jobs created are also mostly temporary, insecure and informal. The group said that in its last months the Duterte government should shake off its complacency in addressing the jobs crisis and step up giving substantial aid and subsidies to jobless and vulnerable Filipinos, small businesses and production sectors to genuinely start economic recovery.
Just released February 2022 labor force results show that employment increased by 2.5 million to 45.5 million from January 2022. Unemployment however also rose by 201,000, although underemployment slightly declined by 15,000. Employment and unemployment rates stayed the same as in January at 93.6% and 6.4%, respectively. Underemployment decreased to 14 percent.
While not catastrophic, IBON said it’s not a good sign that the unemployment rate has levelled off at around 6.4% even though the economy has reopened under Alert Level 1. Translating to 3.1 million unemployed, this underscores that the economy’s ability to create enough jobs has not even recovered to the pre-pandemic unemployment rates of around 5 percent.
The group also said the bigger employment numbers do not mean the jobs crisis has eased. Jobs being created are more in part-time, self-employment and informal work than regular and formal work in private establishments. This shows that millions of employed Filipinos are just trying to get by on whatever they can do to make a living.
The number of those that worked less than 40 hours increased by around 2 million to almost 15 million in February 2022. Nearly eight out of 10 net employment created (78%) since January 2022 is merely part-time work. Meanwhile, full-time workers grew by just 457,000 and those “with a job, not at work” by 82,000.
By class of worker, employment in private establishments fell by 608,000 to 21.6 million between January 2022 and February 2022. IBON observed that the employment increase largely came from irregular work with a 1.8 million increase in self-employment and a one (1) million increase in own family-operated farms or businesses.
The group also said that Filipinos are crowding into irregular and insecure jobs in agriculture and trade because, for instance, the manufacturing sector is not creating enough work.
In February 2022, employment in agriculture grew by 1.5 million to 10.9 million and in wholesale and retail trade by 1.1 million to 10.1 million. Those employed in manufacturing fell by 235,000 to 3.4 million.
But many jobs in agriculture are part-time work, IBON stressed. Around 7.2 million or 67% of those employed in agriculture are part-time workers as of February 2022.
IBON said that Duterte administration should not take the increase in employment at face value. The economy and people’s livelihoods are clearly not normalizing. They remain in crisis and crisis measures are needed as ever, said the group.
The government needs to immediately distribute substantial cash and employment assistance to vulnerable Filipinos and provide subsidies to small businesses and production sectors. This will not only help poor households cope with the jobs crisis but will contribute to jumpstarting the economy towards recovery, said the group.