The rise in unemployment in the Philippines accelerated to 6.5 percent in July from 6.4 percent in April as more people lost jobs as a result of the impact of El Nino on agriculture, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said on Wednesday.
Compared with the year earlier, the rate of unemployment in the country slowed from 6.7 percent, preliminary figures from the Labor Force Survey (LFS) released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed.
“Partly affected by the prolonged dry spell and drought being experienced in some production areas, the [agriculture]sector recorded 877,000 net employment losses in July 2015,” said Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan.
But Balisacan, who is also NEDA director general, expressed optimism for the rest of the year, saying the country is on track toward achieving the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) unemployment target range of 6.6 percent to 6.8 percent.
Underemployment up at 21%
The underemployment rate, or the percentage of the underemployed against the total number of workers, rose to 21 percent in August from 18.2 percent in April, the previous period of the LFS survey, and 18.3 percent a year earlier.
They involved 14 million Filipinos who were no longer employed but wanted more work during the period.
“The rise in underemployment for the period has been driven by full-time workers who still want additional hours of work, whereas the number of underemployed part-time workers actually decreased by 6.0 percent, accounting for 263,000 people,” said Balisacan.
Despite these challenges, positive shifts were mostly noted in the labor market. Mean hours of work significantly improved, indicating that economic activity picked up in the period, he added.
Employment also up
The data showed that employment also improved, with the rate firming further to 93.5 percent in July from 93 percent in April and from the year-earlier 93.3 percent.
The number of employed persons in the Philippines now stands at 62 million.
The services sector, which makes up more than half of the total number of employed workers, continued to be the top job generator among the sectors. This is followed by industries, backed by strong public and private construction, according to the NEDA.
A broad-based increase in the number of full-time workers was likewise observed across majority of the production sectors, coupled with a significant decrease in the number of part-time workers, it said.
“More remunerative and stable wage and salary jobs also increased by 1.5 million, of which, 1.1 million workers were from private establishments,” Balisacan said.
Sustaining the level, quality of jobs
Citing the likely stronger impact on the economy of El Niño in the coming months, Balisacan stressed the importance of a well-coordinated, direct and proactive set of mitigating measures for affected workers in the agriculture sector.
The Roadmap to Address the Impact of El Nino (RAIN) is currently being drafted by NEDA as the lead agency in the Task Force on El Niño.
“Over the medium term, government efforts should help lift the constraints to sustained, decent and quality job-generating growth by increasing competition and reducing the cost of doing business,” Balisacan said.
Quality jobs not enough
Focusing on the underemployment rate, economists from Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) and the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) said the figure does not indicate that quality jobs are enough in the Philippines.
“Data still shows that the economy is not producing quality jobs,” said Alvin Ang, economic professor at ADMU.
UA&P senior economist Cid Terosa said the underemployment figure was expected, given the economic slowdown in the first quarter.
“The huge number of underemployed mirrors the effort of millions of Filipinos to get jobs [even of]lesser quality to cope with the demands of daily life. Of course, data from Leyte [province]raised the number of unemployed and underemployed,” he said.
The LFS survey in July included data from Leyte province, which is often hardest hit by typhoons. But the survey’s comparable data for the year-ago and April does not reflect the employment situation in the whole country as the province was excluded from the surveys for both periods.
Terosa said the government could raise public spending on infrastructure development, promote countryside development and create more opportunities for micro, small and medium enterprises to grow and prosper.