The Aquino administration that will end in June this year has nothing to be proud of where the country’s economy is concerned, according to an independent research group.
On Monday, Ibon Foundation said the 6.9 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the first quarter of the year should not be “overstated” and capitalized on as the highest in Asia since the country has the “highest unemployment rate in Asia,” a basis that poverty is also massive in the country.
Other major Asian economies like China had 6.7 percent GDP growth during the same period; Vietnam, 5.5 percent;, Indonesia, 4.9 percent; and Malaysia, 4.2 percent.
However, Ibon said GDP is a “misleading indicator of development.” According to the research group, there is no question that “economic growth is important, but [it]should not be used to divert public attention from fundamental problems of chronic joblessness and poverty [of the country].”
Last week, Malacañang officials said the improved economy is one of the legacies of the Aquino administration that the incoming administration of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte must continue.
The officials pointed to “strong economic fundamentals” made under the administration as the reason for the economic growth.
But Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said the economic fundamentals were put in place during the presidency of Gloria Arroyo.
Ibon said the Aquino administration has no right to claim credit for the economic gains because these have not solved massive unemployment and poverty in the country.
The research group, which advocates nationalist economy, added that government data show that “the Philippines still has the worst unemployment in Asia.”
It disclosed that the “latest” Labor Force Survey (LFS) data noted that unemployment in the country was pegged at 5.8 percent in January this year.
Its neighbors like China has 4.0 percent unemployment rate; Vietnam, 2.3 percent; Indonesia, 5.5 percent; Malaysia, 3.5 percent; and Thailand, 1.0 percent.
The number of underemployed Filipinos, or those working but looking for additional work and income, drastically increased by 847,000 to reach 7.7 million in January 2016 from the same period the year before.
Government data also revealed that the underemployment rate correspondingly grew to 19.7 percent in January 2016 from 17.9 percent last year.
On the other hand, the Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR), which measures the share of the working age population working or looking for work, has fallen to crisis levels.
The 63.4 percent LFPR in January 2016 is practically as low as the 63.3 percent rate in January 2009 or right after the 2008 global financial crisis.
This figure is the lowest in over 30 years since averaging just 62.9 percent annually during the 1981-1985 economic crisis in the closing years of the Marcos administration, according to government data.
Ibon said the working age population grew by 1.1 million in January 2016 from the year before but the labor force only grew by a much smaller 487,000.
These results, which in effect lower unemployment figures, are consistent with growing numbers of discouraged workers.
Ibon said “the worsening jobs situation is due to neo-liberal economic policies that have stunted Filipino industry and kept local agriculture backward. This structural problem is aggravated by growing labor flexibilization and contractualization.”
“The incoming administration needs to discard these policies for the jobs situation to improve,” it added.