Research group IBON said that the rise in employment and decline in unemployment is seemingly welcome after the worsening job generation in the past four consecutive labor force rounds. But this should not be taken at face value because of alarming underlying trends. This includes job losses in the production sectors that the Duterte administration is failing to address, said the group.
The Philippines Statistics Authority (PSA) reported an increase in the number of employed by 1.3 million in April 2019. Labor force participation also increased by almost 1.3 million in the same period. The number of unemployed declined by 74,000 while the number of underemployed fell by 1.2 million.
IBON noted that job contraction in production sectors show the domestic economy is weakening with government’s continued shift away from agriculture and industry towards low value-added and low-paying services. Agricultural employment dropped even further by 376,000 to its lowest in the past three decades. Employment in manufacturing fell by 101,000 to contract by the largest amount since the 189,000 fall in 2008.
The group observed that employment mostly increased in wholesale and retail trade which is the second lowest-paying service subsector next to household domestic work. Some 648,000 additional work was created in trade followed by 380,000 in transportation and storage, then 295,000 in public administration, and 247,000 in accommodation and food service activities. Most of these subsectors are notorious for informal and irregular work. Construction work was a distant fifth with just 207,000 additional employment, likely due to the delayed budget and the election ban on public works.
The markedly lower underemployment rates are also on the face of it welcome, said IBON. But the lower reported underemployment may be due more to disinterest in seeking other work and poor jobs prospects, rather than improving satisfaction with the quality and pay of the work at hand.
IBON stressed that
agriculture and broad-based Filipino industry are vital for long-term
growth, productivity increases, job creation and rising incomes. Yet
these critical sectors continue to decline amid government policies
advancing market-driven interests and persistent neglect. The group
said it is more urgent for government to correct these instead of
over-relying on the short-term stimulus of infrastructure spending.