Closer look at jobs picture shows growth in unstable employment
MANILA, Philippines—The May 2023 labor data, which was released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) last Friday (July 7), is an indication of a “favorable labor market performance,” the government said.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, in a statement by the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), assured the public that the government will continue reforms to sustain current labor market gains.
The government will also continue reforms to improve the country’s business investment climate, especially for foreign investors, Neda said as it highlighted the 4.3 percent unemployment rate in May 2023, lower than the 6 percent a year ago.
But the think tank Ibon Foundation pointed out that the government cannot claim such gains in the labor market because “net job creation is overwhelmingly composed of part-time workers and of self-employed and other informal workers.”
It stressed that “despite months of government playing up so-called reforms to ensure high-quality job generation, more and more Filipinos are struggling to earn whatever they can just to get by.”
Improving jobs picture
According to PSA data, there were only 2.17 million jobless Filipinos in May 2023, slightly lower than the 2.93 million in May 2022, even though labor force participation increased to 65.3 percent from 64 percent.
The employment rate also improved from 94 percent, or 46.08 million, to 95.7 percent, or 48.26 million, with the underemployment rate falling to 11.7 percent, or 5.66 million, from 14.5 percent, or 6.67 million.
Neda said there were 2.18 million more employed Filipinos, 760,000 fewer jobless individuals, and over 1 million fewer employed persons who want to have an additional job or more hours of work in May 2023.
Based on PSA data, these were the sectors that had the highest rise in employment:
- Agriculture and Forestry: +1,253,000
- Accommodation and Food Services: +398,000
- Other Services: +365,000
- Fishing and Aquaculture: +351,000
- Arts and Entertainment: +305,000
Meanwhile, wholesale and retail trade, construction, and manufacturing were the sectors that registered the largest drop in employment, having a decrease of 781,000, 274,000, and 253,000, respectively.
Taking what’s accessible
Ibon Foundation, however, pointed out last Saturday (July 8) that by industry, there were sectors with high numbers of temporary or irregular employment, and even part-time jobs.
It said the number of part-time workers grew by 383,000 in agriculture, forestry and fisheries; 531,000 in wholesale and retail trade; and 213,000 in accommodation and food services.
Then as to the number of full-time workers, there was a 141,000 decline in agriculture, forestry and fisheries; 185,000 in wholesale and retail trade; and 374,000 in construction.
As stressed by the think tank, “the government is not really addressing the lack of high-quality jobs nor assisting Filipino workers in need,” saying that “it is still being very short-sighted and does not have a long-term strategy.”
It said a concrete program is needed for agricultural development or, especially, national industrialization, which is “essential for creating high quality jobs on the scale needed to resolve poverty.”
Last month, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the government is committed to providing quality jobs, stressing that it would “continue to focus on strengthening the labor force and using the technology for the benefit of our labor market.”
Low-paying, irregular work
Marcos, last June 30, marked his first year as president, but Ibon Foundation said unstable employment grew in his first 11 months, even though employment went up and joblessness went down from June 2022 to May 2023.
From June 2022 to May 2023, Marcos’ first months with available labor data, the think tank said employment increased by 1.7 million, while joblessness and underemployment decreased by 822,000 and 227,000, respectively.
However, the 1.7 million net jobs created were mostly temporary, irregular and insecure work, with declines in full-time work and in work in private establishments, Ibon Foundation pointed out.
“Clearly, the only jobs being created […] are of poor quality,” Ibon said, stressing that this has to be admitted by the government, so that it can already start finding ways to address the problem.
This, as the number of part-time workers, or those working less than 40 hours a day, grew by 1.4 million from 15.7 million in June 2022 to 17.1 million in May 2023, the think tank said.
The number of those “with a job, not at work” also grew to 362,0000 and taken altogether, there was a 1.8 million increase in poor quality and poorly paying work.
Based on PSA data, there are four classes of workers and one of them is subdivided into four.
The wage and salary workers had the highest percentage at 60.5 percent in May 2023, however, this is lower than the 61.2 percent in May 2022, 62.2 percent in June 2022, and 61.5 percent in April 2023.
The number of workers in private establishments, which comprise almost half of the wage and salary workers, fell to 46.5 percent from 48.5 percent in May 2022, 48.5 percent in June 2022, and 47.6 percent in April 2023.
As pointed out by Ibon Foundation, the number of wage and salary workers in private establishments declined by 180,000 from 22.6 million in June 2022 to 22.4 million in May 2023.
The number of self-employed, meanwhile, grew by 555,000 (from 13 million to 13.6 million), of those working in private households by 290,000 (from nearly 2 million to 2.3 million), and of those in family farms or businesses by over 1 million (from 4.8 million to 5.8 million).
“This seems to indicate that the loss of regular work in the private sector is forcing more Filipinos to become self-employed just to make any sort of income or earnings for themselves and their families,” it said.
The think tank also highlighted the “substantial rise in unpaid family workers by 684,000 from 3.7 million to 4.4 million,” saying that this is the second highest number of unpaid family workers ever recorded after the 4.8 million in February 2023.
It stressed that concerned people’s and civil society organizations and citizens have not been remiss in forwarding short and long-term proposals that would bring much-needed assistance and relief to workers and their families as well as genuinely strengthen domestic development to boost job generation.
“The Marcos Jr administration should seriously pursue these if it is sincere about doing more to help the people instead of continuing on the failed market-driven path that has only benefited big business and the wealthy few,” it said.