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The growing misery of underemployment


The Philippines posted a gross domestic product growth of 7.4 percent in the second quarter of 2022, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. The encouraging news is that all the major economic sectors posted positive growth during the period. And we are on course to achieve the GDP growth target of 6.9 percent this year.


The bad news: Underemployment figures are moving in the wrong direction. Sen. Nancy Binay asked the Department of Labor and Employment on Monday what it is doing to address the increased rate of underemployment. She cited the latest PSA report saying the number of underemployed Filipinos rose to 6.54 million in July from 5.89 million in June.


Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma admitted that the quality of jobs in the country remains a challenge for the DOLE. He said they are working closely with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to upskill workers. He also confirmed coordination with the Commission on Higher Education, Department of Education, and TESDA, as part of the implementation of the Philippine Qualifications Framework Act to address jobs mismatch in the country.


The PSA earlier said the country’s unemployment rate slowed to 5.2 percent in July, the slowest since October 2019 when the jobless rate was at 4.5 percent. Economists, however, said the figures failed to impress as underemployment increased in July and manufacturing, where decent jobs can be created, saw a decline in employment generation.


“A lot of the jobs seem to be generated in the informal sector as underemployment is up by 1.2 percentage points. July is also harvesting season so jobs are expected to be plentiful during this month,” Ateneo Eagle Watch Senior Fellow Leonardo A. Lanzona Jr. told the BusinessMirror. “My sense is that people were willing to work—which led to the higher labor force participation rate, and were amenable to do so even at low compensation—which resulted in the high underemployment.”


A recent report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific said that less than half of the Philippine workforce is employed in a quality job. In the report, “The Workforce We Need: Social Outlook for Asia and the Pacific,” UNESCAP said only 40 percent of working Filipinos have decent jobs. These workers earn more than twice the income of those with poor quality jobs in the Philippines.


“In the Philippines, 43 percent of workers in sectors with a strong urban component such as electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply, are found in good quality jobs, compared to only 6 percent of rural workers in the agriculture, hunting, forestry and fishing sectors,” the report said. It added that in the Philippines, individuals with secondary and tertiary education are four to five times more likely to have a good quality job than those with no education.


Decent work in the Philippines is defined as jobs that allow workers to earn more than the minimum wage, with duty hours of at least 40 hours per week. This also means workers are formally employed; they have full-time or permanent jobs; and are not in vulnerable employment.


Senator Joel Villanueva on Friday said the drop in unemployment from 6 percent to 5.2 percent in June is a positive indicator in jobs recovery, even as he expressed concern over the rising number of underemployed Filipinos. “We still face a precarious jobs situation which requires aggressive intervention,” Villanueva said. “We need jobs that are secure and pay decently, not temporary, informal and insecure, especially amid rising prices due to inflation.”


In an ideal world, when the economy continues to grow, the workers should get to enjoy their fair share of the prosperity pie. Sadly, the labor situation in the Philippines is far from ideal. Just ask the millions of “endo” workers how vulnerable they feel—they have no job security, no social protection, no sick leave and vacation leave, no 13th-month pay, no benefits.


There are people in government who are in a position to prevent Filipino workers from being exploited by big business, but they have no compunction to act. Need we wonder why we have 6.54 million Filipinos who are underemployed? Our leaders should realize that the effects of underemployment are similar to those of unemployment—higher poverty levels.




Source: Business Mirror - BusinessMirror Editorial

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