Million increase in underemployed: Economy still not creating enough decent work

May 6, 2022

by IBON Foundation

Research group IBON warned against complacency following the reported increase in employment, pointing out the spike in underemployment and in part-time work. The group said that many Filipinos are still struggling to make ends meet and the economy is still weak despite reopening. The group said that it remains urgent to stimulate the economy with cash aid, wage increases, and subsidies to small businesses and producers to make recovery happen.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported employment increasing by 1.5 million from 45.5 million in February 2022 to almost 47 million in March 2022. However, underemployment also grew by a large 1.04 million from 6.4 million to 7.4 million. Meanwhile, the number of unemployed only fell slightly by just 255,000.

IBON also noted how the increase in employed is mostly of part-time workers. The number of those working less than 40 hours accounted for 900,000 or three-fifths of the 1.5 million increase in employment in March. Part-time workers increased from almost 15 million in February to 15.9 million in March.

Most of the part-time work are in sectors where jobs tend to be seasonal and thus low-paying and insecure, said the group. These include agriculture (8 million part-time workers) and wholesale and retail trade (2.7 million).

Meanwhile, full-time workers or those working more than 40 hours grew by 551,000 while those “with a job, not at work” declined by 317,000.

Looking at employment by class of worker, the number of self-employed without any paid employee fell by 191,000 from 13.3 million to 13.1 million.  On the other hand, employers in own family-operated farms or businesses increased by 117,000 while unpaid family workers significantly increased by 552,000.

Millions of Filipinos are trying to scrape out a living with informal and irregular work.  Based on IBON estimates, informal work increased from 19.7 million in February to 20.1 million in March accounting for 43% of jobs. This informal work is comprised of the self-employed, those working in small family farms or businesses, domestic help, or unpaid family workers. This could be even more if irregular workers in private establishments were also included.

IBON said that it is not enough to reopen the economy and have more people getting whatever jobs they can to survive. The government needs to ensure that Filipinos especially the millions of vulnerable have sustainable and decent work to ensure their family’s basic needs are met. Economic stimulus in the form of more cash aid for poor families, a wage hike, wage and finance subsidies and support to MSMEs and small, local producers remains necessary for rapid and inclusive economic recovery.

IBON said that reopening the economy and lowering alert levels has still not been enough to make the labor market recover. While unemployment seems to be easing, employment in terms of regular and decent work is still not recovering. Unemployment and underemployment levels and rates are still higher compared to before the lockdowns. Many Filipinos are also just making do with what work they can find even if these are temporary, part-time and insecure.

The group said that the next administration will inherit the jobs crisis that the current administration has worsened and will need to have the political will to implement measures that will really help Filipinos and the country’s economy to recover.