Strong labor market? Part-time, informal workers surge by over 2M – IBON

January 6, 2023

by IBON Foundation

Research group IBON said that latest labor force data showing huge spikes in part-time and informal jobs belies government claims of a strong labor market and steady economic recovery. The group said that the Marcos Jr administration needs to give more serious attention to the worsening informality of employment instead of hyping economic growth if it is to address the poor jobs situation of millions of Filipinos.

Referring to the just released November 2022 labor force figures, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said that “the strong labor market signifies the steady recovery of our economy.” Since June 2022, right before the inauguration of Marcos Jr, his economic managers have been touting a strong rebound in labor market conditions and economic activity.

IBON said however that government insisting on a strong labor market is dismissive of how more and more jobs are poor-quality, forcing many Filipinos to settle for whatever work they can get just to try and make ends meet.

Comparing November 2022 jobs data to October 2022, employment increased by 2.6 million from 47.1 million to 49.7 million. But the number of unemployed hardly changed, decreasing by just 65,000 (from 2.24 million to 2.18 million), while the number of underemployed went up by almost half a million (from 6.7 million to 7.2 million).

IBON stressed that the alarming surge in part-time and informal jobs month-on-month, and even since June 2022 when the new administration claimed better labor market conditions, shows that the jobs situation is worsening.

By hours worked, the number of those just working part-time or less than 40 hours grew by an overwhelming 2.2 million from 16 million in October 2022 to 18.1 million in November 2022. This is six times more than the increase in full-time workers or those working 40 hours and over which rose only incrementally by 367,000. Those with a job, not at work went up by 56,000.

The situation is even worse when comparing employment figures in November 2022 to June 2022. The number of part-time workers surged by 2.5 million from 15.7 million, while full-time workers increased by just 546,000. Those with a job, not at work grew by 98,000.

Meanwhile, looking at jobs data by class of worker also reveals the increasing informality in employment. From October 2022 to November 2022, there were significant increases in the number of domestic workers (by 142,000), self-employed (by 276,000), and unpaid family workers (by 953,000).

From June 2022 to November 2022, there were also big increases in the number of domestic workers (by 167,000), self-employed (329,000), employers in own family-operated farm or business (442,000), and especially unpaid family workers (634,000).

In November 2022, altogether there were 21.5 million informal workers accounting for 43.2% of total employed. Informal workers include domestic workers (2.1 million), the self-employed (13.4 million), and those in own family-operated farms or businesses (6 million, which includes a huge 4.4 million unpaid family workers); this does not yet include informal workers in private establishments.

This is a huge 1.7 million higher than the 19.8 million informal workers in June 2022 and October 2022.

IBON said that the Marcos Jr administration should not take employment and growth figures at face-value and ignore how millions of Filipinos are struggling with inadequate and poor-quality work, especially amid soaring prices, low incomes and stingy government support. It can instead ensure real economic recovery by allotting more resources towards meaningful and effective action such as urgent and substantial wage hikes, cash assistance and subsidies for small businesses and production sectors.