Over 1M rise in part-time workers belies admin’s ‘favorable’ labor market claims—IBON

July 8, 2023

by IBON Foundation

Research group IBON said that the administration cannot claim “favorable labor market performance” because net job creation is overwhelmingly composed of part-time workers and of self-employed and other informal workers. In contrast, the number of full-time workers and of workers in private establishments is actually falling. The group said that despite months of government playing up so-called reforms to ensure high-quality job generation, more and more Filipinos are struggling to earn whatever they can just to get by.

Comparing recently released labor force figures for May 2023 with those for June 2022 shows that even though employment numbers are up and unemployment down, informality grew drastically in the first 11 months of the Marcos Jr administration, said IBON.

The reported number of employed increased by a seemingly large 1.7 million from 46.6 million in June 2022 to 48.3 million in May 2023. Meanwhile, there were declines in the number of unemployed (by 822,000 from nearly 3 million down to 2.2 million) and the number of underemployed (by 227,000 from 5.9 million down to 5.7 million).

IBON noted however that while there was net employment creation of 1.7 million in the first year of the Marcos Jr government, this was mostly temporary, irregular and insecure work with declines in full-time work and in work in private establishments. Clearly, the only jobs being created under the current administration are of poor-quality which it has to admit to be able to start finding solutions.

Looking at labor force data by hours worked shows worsening informality. The number of part-time workers or those working less than 40 hours grew by 1.4 million from 15.7 million in June 2022 to 17.1 million in May 2023. The number of those ‘with a job, not at work’ also grew 362,000 to 737,000. Taken together, there was a 1.8 million increase in this likely poor quality and poorly paying work. In contrast, the number of full-time workers or those working more than 40 hours even fell by 128,000 from 30.5 million to 30.4 million.

Data by class of worker also confirms this disturbing trend of growing informal work. The number of wage and salary workers in private establishments declined by 180,000 from 22.6 million in June 2022 to 22.4 million in May 2023. On the other hand, the number of self-employed grew by 555,000 (from 13 million to 13.6 million), of those working in private households by 290,000 (from nearly 2 million to 2.3 million), and of those in family farms or businesses by over 1 million (from 4.8 million to 5.8 million).

This seems to indicate that the loss of regular work in the private sector is forcing more Filipinos to become self-employed just to make any sort of income or earnings for themselves and their families. Particularly concerning is the substantial rise in unpaid family workers by 684,000 from 3.7 million to 4.4 million. This is the second highest number of unpaid family workers ever recorded after the 4.8 million in February 2023.

IBON estimates that the number of those in outright informal work grew by a huge 1.8 million from 19.8 million in June 2022 to 21.6 million in May 2023, and now accounts for nearly half or 44.8% of total employed in May 2023.  Informal workers are comprised of domestic helpers, the self-employed, those working in own family-operated farms or businesses and unpaid family workers. This number could be even larger if informal workers in private establishments are counted.

The group also noted that by industry, there are sectors that mainly have seasonal, temporary or irregular employment also had increases in part-time jobs. The number of part-time workers in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector grew by 383,000; in wholesale retail trade by 531,000; and in accommodation and food service by 213,000. Meanwhile, there were declines in the number of full-time workers in agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector by 141,000; wholesale retail trade by 185,000; and construction by 374,000.

IBON said that the Marcos Jr government is not really addressing the lack of high-quality jobs nor assisting Filipino workers in need. It is still being very short-sighted and does not have a long-term strategy for agricultural development or, especially, national industrialization which is essential for creating high quality jobs on the scale needed to resolve poverty.

The administration has also been insensitive and stingy in providing support and subsidies to workers and their families. For instance, it slashed funds in the 2023 national budget for social protection and workers’ assistance programs; the paltry Php40 minimum wage increase is only in the National Capital Region (NCR) despite low incomes and high prices nationwide; and it still has Php245.3 million in unspent funds for the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Integrated Livelihood Program (DILP) in 2022.

IBON said that concerned people’s and civil society organizations and citizens have not been remiss in forwarding short and long-term proposals that would bring much-needed assistance and relief to workers and their families as well as genuinely strengthen domestic development to boost job generation. The Marcos Jr administration should seriously pursue these if it is sincere about doing more to help the people instead of continuing on the failed market-driven path that has only benefited big business and the wealthy few, said the group.