High underemployment smudges gov’t jobs picture | Inquirer News

High underemployment smudges gov’t jobs picture

By: - Content Researcher Writer / @inquirerdotnet
/ 04:12 PM February 23, 2022
High underemployment smudges gov’t jobs picture

IMAGE: Daniella Marie Agacer

MANILA, Philippines––The government’s “weak” employment creation will restrict real economic recovery.

While economic managers of the Duterte administration point to a rosy picture of the economy once COVID restrictions are removed, another view was shared by the local think tank Ibon Foundation.


Ibon said the lack of decent-paying jobs for Filipinos indicates mainly “weak economic production capacity.”

Rosario Guzman, the think tank’s head researcher, said “the working people are making do with whatever sources of livelihood are available.”


Last Feb. 10, the government said the net employment creation in December 2021 “signals that the economy is on the right track to recovery.”

The National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) said “we were able to generate more and better jobs for the people.”

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua, who also heads Neda, attributed the upbeat projection to faster vaccination rates and the safe reopening of more economic sectors as restrictions ease.

But Ibon said a closer look would show that most jobs were part-time, low-paying and without security of tenure. “Filipinos are only making do and their lives aren’t better off,” said Guzman.

Closer look at jobs

GRAPHIC: Daniella Marie Agacer

In 2020, the year COVID-19 hit, the average monthly wage rate for time-rated workers fell from P18,108 to P16,486. With the economic standstill, the drop could even be higher for part-time and informal workers.

READ: COVID impact, lack of gov’t aid erode wage values in PH

Ibon said based on the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) Labor Force Survey and List of Establishments 2021, there are 44 million employed workers in 2021:

  • 3.2 million unpaid family workers
  • 1.2 million engaged in own farm/business
  • 12.3 million self-employed without employee
  • 2 million workers for private households
  • 12.1 million workers for informal private establishments
  • 9 million workers for formal private establishments
  • 4.1 million government workers

Guzman told INQUIRER.net that the employment crisis has been observed even before COVID-19 hit as the economy “leans towards being service–oriented than producing new products for domestic needs”.


READ: PSA: Number of unemployed Filipinos rises to 3.27 million in Dec. 2021

Kinds of work

Ibon said the PSA officially reported that there were 3.7 million jobless Filipinos in 2021, but the number could even be higher, estimated at 6.2 million.

The think tank explained that this was because of 2.5 million jobless workforce participants not being counted and listed in official statistics between 2016 and 2020.


GRAPHIC: Daniella Marie Agacer

The Ibon Yearstarter 2022 stressed that the crisis of joblessness has been painted over by the change in definition of unemployment, which led to the disappearance from government data of millions of unemployed Filipinos.

Employment was given a liberal definition that involves immense and rising amounts of “informal and irregular pseudo-work,” Ibon said last Feb. 5.

The think tank said while President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration saw record highs in joblessness, millions of Filipinos, counted by the government as employed, are just making do with part-time work or with irregular, informal or self-employment:

  • Self employed without employee are 12.3 million in 2021, a 1.3 million rise from 11.1 million in 2016
  • Engaged in own farm/business are 1.2 million in 2021, a 296,000 drop from 1.5 million in 2016
  • Unpaid family workers are 3.2 million in 2021, a 57,000 drop from 3.3 million in 2016
  • Wage and salary workers, like those in government, private establishments and private households, are 27.2 million in 2021, a 2.1 million rise from 25.1 million in 2016
No full time work

GRAPHIC: Daniella Marie Agacer

Ibon said while there was an increase in wage and salary workers, it isn’t clear how many of them have regular and full-time work: “The number of self-employed also increased, especially after the long lockdowns.”

Most are part-time workers

Ibon also calculated that an “overwhelming” 95 percent of three million individuals considered as employed by the government have only part-time jobs. “Barely one percent is in full-time work,” it said.

There are 16.2 million part-time workers, or those who worked for less than 40 hours a week, in 2021, a 2.8 million rise from 13.4 million in 2016

There are 525,000 “with a job, not at work in 2021,” a 127,000 rise from 398,000 in 2016

There are 27.3 million full-time workers, or those who worked for more than 40 hours a week, in 2021, a 36,000 rise from 27.2 million in 2016

Guzman said when the economy leans toward being service-oriented, it fails to create regular and meaningful employment for Filipinos who are still reeling from the economic and social devastation caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

Jobless numbers

GRAPHIC: Daniella Marie Agacer

Sonny Africa, executive director of Ibon, said when the Philippines lacks decent-paying work, family incomes and earnings will remain low and will even repress aggregate demand and constrain economic recovery.

READ: Jobs for Filipinos: Dark past and present, uncertain future

The think tank said at least seven million workers are “underemployed” in 2021.

“The lockdown-caused economic scarring has only highlighted this jobs crisis and the shallowness of ‘economic growth’ as government hypes,” Guzman said.

PH workers

She said “inversely, if economic rebound is simply reliant on unrepentant economic policies that prioritize non-production sectors, it will only increase the creation of odd jobs.”

There are 169,000 mining or quarrying workers in 2021, 4.3 million are construction workers, 3.5 million are manufacturing workers, while 10.7 are agricultural, fishing and forestry workers.

Part time work

GRAPHIC: Daniella Marie Agacer

Ibon said there are 3.5 million public utilities workers, like workers in electricity, gas and water, transport and storage, and information and communications. There are 21.9 million service workers.


GRAPHIC: Daniella Marie Agacer

Most of these, however, have the lowest basic pay––agriculture, fishing and forestry, manufacturing, mining and quarrying, construction––the PSA said last Feb. 9.

  • Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing: P10,476 median monthly basic pay
  • Manufacturing: P11,651 median monthly basic pay
  • Mining and Quarrying: P13,272 median monthly basic pay
  • Construction: P13,800 median monthly basic pay
  • Transportation and Storage: P14,252 median monthly basic pay
  • Water Supply, Sewerage, Waste Management and Remediation Activities: P15,242 median monthly basic pay
  • Information and Communication: P24,469 median monthly basic pay
  • Electricity, Gas, Steam and Air Conditioning Supply: P27,253 median monthly basic pay

Africa told INQUIRER.net that the government has to spur household spending and aggregate demand through substantial cash transfers.

“This can be paid for by realigning spending from budget items with weaker multiplier effects, such as capital- and import-intensive infrastructure, or by a billionaire tax that more directly mobilizes accumulated financial resources in the hands of a few,” he said.

Africa stressed: “Household cash transfers should be accompanied by real and substantial support for small and informal enterprises to ensure a supply response and generate a wider multiplier effect.”

NEDA said “we vigorously pursue the implementation of the Economic Development Cluster 10-point policy. This will set the stage for our full recovery in 2022.”


A year in crisis: A review of 2021’s biggest events

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TAGS: Employment, Ibon Foundation, INQFocus, joblessness, lack of decent job, National Economic Development Authority, Philippine Statistics Authority
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