Nearly four years into President Benigno Aquino III’s term, his administration has failed to address the country’s high unemployment rate.
When the President began his term, the official national unemployment rate was 7.0 percent in July 2010. Now, the unemployment rate stands at 7.5 percent, as of January 2014.
We in the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) are deeply disappointed that up to now, the administration has not offered—not even in broad strokes—clear-cut strategies as to how it intends to forcefully create new jobs.
We need sound, aggressive and actionable strategies to propel jobs growth in an orderly manner and remove hurdles to full employment. We also need extra fast break measures to create new jobs for marginal households.
Such fast break measures should include the use of all available assets, including idle or non-performing government land, for public housing and other highly labor-intensive projects, and community employment programs tied to infrastructure projects.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, as of January 2014, a total of 10.07 million able-bodied Filipinos in the labor force were either totally jobless (2.969 million unemployed), or had little work and were desperately looking for additional work and income (7.101 million underemployed).
Although the last reported official unemployment rate was 7.5 percent as of January, a separate survey by the Social Weather Stations showed that a total of 12.1 million individuals were completely without work in the last quarter of 2013, implying a much higher jobless rate of 27.5 percent.
According to a study by the National Competitiveness Council, the country has to create three to four million new jobs every year over the next five years, to bridge the unemployment gap and bring the nation to newly industrialized status.
Jobs provide people with incomes that enable them to buy goods and services or to save. The increase in consumption stimulates the market, builds up the economy and provides additional revenue for government. And the accumulation of savings provides more funds for investment.
The government needs to take the lead in creating jobs. They should draft a national employment plan that would compel every agency and state-owned firm to carry out more labor-intensive projects.
To make sure these agencies do, Congress should consider as factors for approving their budget not only their performance, but also the number of jobs they were able to provide.
Let us ensure that every public project and that every private sector endeavor is highly labor-intensive. Let us compel every agency to set achievable employment targets. Then let us assign an interagency panel to monitor performance in terms of jobs creation.
As to the private sector, loan applications with government financial institutions should be approved on the basis of the number of jobs the projects to be funded would create.
The government should focus on public works that have the highest job-creation potential and generate the highest returns. These projects, such as farm-to-market roads, school buildings and irrigation systems, are also urgently needed. Whether such projects involve new construction or maintenance, they provide direct employment, help lower cost of production and consequently, also reduce the prices of goods.
In a country with high rates of unemployment and underemployment, capital-intensive methods of production are highly questionable.
Labor Day has come and gone. While many people think of Labor Day as just another holiday, the occasion is meant, of course, to honor the contributions of working men and women to the growth and prosperity of our nation.
We should be proud of the dedication and hard work of our workers especially during these trying times.
What workers need most, though, aside from the recognition during Labor Day are straightforward solutions to some of the serious problems they face. Instead of lip service about the importance of their concerns, the government and the private sector should pursue more genuine efforts to solve these problems.
First and foremost among these problems that need solving, of course, is the lack of quality jobs available to the country’s workers.