MANILA, Philippines—The underemployment rate should be reduced to 10 percent over the next two years for the country to achieve the nearly impossible 2015 Millennium Development Goal on poverty reduction.
This is according to Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, who said the poor quality of jobs of many Filipinos was largely to blame for the extremely slow progress over the last two decades in lifting the masses out of poverty.
Balisacan said that in the Philippines, unemployment was much less a problem than underemployment. It’s not that many Filipinos do not have jobs, but that many of those who are employed have jobs of low quality, he explained.
“I would like to see the underemployment rate reduced by about half to 10 percent. Also, we want to see an increase in the proportion of wage and salary workers to the total number of employed,” Balisacan said Friday at a forum organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.
Balisacan said the Aquino administration, which is in the process of updating the Philippine Development Plan (PDP), would like to focus during the remainder of its term on programs and projects that not only will provide employment but also quality jobs to the unemployed.
Some of these programs and projects include tourism infrastructure, higher budget for education, and streamlining of policies to boost the manufacturing sector, he said.
Results of the latest Labor Force Survey conducted by the National Statistics Office showed that the unemployment rate stood at 7.5 percent in April 2013, up from 6.9 percent in the same period last year.
Although the unemployment rate rose, Baliscan said, an unemployment rate in neighborhood of 7 percent territory was not really bad. He said the 7.5-percent unemployment rate was not the reason poverty incidence remains significant; the reason was underemployment.
The underemployment rate in April stood at 19.2 percent, equivalent to 7.252 million Filipinos.
“Underemployed” is technically defined as people with jobs but who are either looking for additional jobs, looking for new jobs with longer work hours, or those who want additional work hours in their present jobs.
NSO data also showed that of the 37.8 million Filipinos who had jobs during the period, 57.5 percent or some 21.8 million fell under the category of “wage and salary earners.” The rest were either unpaid family workers, self-employed, or employers on their own farms or businesses.
Under the Millennium Development Goal on poverty reduction, which was committed by member-countries of the United Nations, poverty incidence should be halved by 2015 from the levels seen in the early 1990s.
In the case of the Philippines, the goal is to bring down poverty incidence from 33 percent to 16.6 percent. As of June last year, poverty incidence stood at 27.9 percent.
Balisacan said that with the very minimal reduction in poverty incidence from the 1990s level, the 2015 goal on poverty reduction would be difficult to achieve.
“It is not impossible, but it is very challenging. Therefore, we need to generate jobs of good quality,” Balisacan said.