Employment falls, official unemployment stats hide millions of jobless Filipinos — IBON

November 8, 2022

by IBON Foundation

Research group IBON said the Marcos Jr administration should not overly hype the dip in unemployment figures as these only disguise huge numbers of Filipinos struggling to find decent work. The group also noted that lower employment amid the drop in labor participation could also mean more discouraged workers. IBON said that the poor jobs situation amid high prices is hitting Filipinos hard and could push more into deeper poverty if not arrested.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported a year-on-year decrease in the unemployment rate to 5% in September 2022 from 8.9% in September last year. This is lower than the 5.3% unemployment in January 2020 and lowest since the 4.5% in October 2019.

Looking at month-on-month figures, unemployment went down by 187,000 from 2.7 million in August 2022 to 2.5 million in September 2022. However, employment also fell by 287,000 from almost 47.9 million to 47.6 million in the same period.

IBON said that even more concerning is the drop in labor force participants by 470,000 from 50.6 million to 50.1 million which likely indicates growing numbers of discouraged workers. The decrease in the number of unemployed did little to offset this especially with the bigger decline in employed persons.

IBON also noted that a significant number of so-called jobs are informal with Filipinos turning to whatever work they can find to support themselves and their families.

From September 2021 to September 2022, by class of worker, there was an increase in wage and salary workers by 2.2 million from 27.4 million to 29.6 million. But the group said there were also significant increases in informal work by a total of 1.9 million, mainly in the number of self-employed (by nearly 815,000 from 12.2 million to 13.1 million) and unpaid family workers (by 863,000 from 3 million to 3.9 million).

Month-on-month, the number of part-time workers went up by 378,000 from 15.9 million in August 2022 to 16.3 million in September 2022, while the number of full-time workers declined by 610,000 in the same period. By class of worker, there was a notable 118,000 drop in the number of wage and salary workers in private establishments from 23 million to 22.9 million which could be a sign of a stumbling economy.

IBON estimates that as of September 2022 as much as 20.2 million or 4 out of 10 employed Filipinos are in outright informal work made up of the self-employed, those employed in small family farms or businesses, domestic help, and unpaid family workers. This is a whopping 3.4 million increase from the 16.8 million in pre-pandemic January 2020, which indicates a persistent jobs crisis.

The group said that the underemployment rate increased to 15.4% from 14.2% in September 2021 and has been increasing since June this year. Month-on-month, there was an increase in the number of underemployed by 296,000 from 7 million in August 2022 to 7.3 million in September 2022.

IBON also noted that the biggest job losses were mostly in wholesale and retail trade (by 335,000). This could be due to increasing prices having a dampening effect on supply chains.  

IBON said that the Marcos Jr administration appears to be more intent on playing up supposed employment gains rather than addressing the reality of massive joblessness. By acknowledging the dire jobs situation it can take meaningful and effective measures to address this and at the same time help Filipinos cope such as through much-needed wage hikes and subsidies, cash assistance, and support for small businesses and production sectors, said the group.