The country’s employment situation worsened despite the astounding 7.8 percent growth in the first quarter, according to the preliminary results of the Labor Force Survey (LFS) of the National Statistics Office (NSO).
The NSO said the unemployment rate rose to 7.5 percent in April, the highest in three years. It means that there were 3.09 million Filipinos without jobs as of April, up from the 2.89 million unemployed in January.
The April rate is higher by 0.6 percentage points than the 6.9 percent rate recorded in April 2012. It is lower than the 8 percent unemployment rate in April 2010.
The survey revealed that the number of employed Filipinos went down to an estimated 37.819 million in April this year, lower than last year’s 37.840 million, a decrease of about 21,000 workers. The NSO pegged the total labor force at 40.9 million, higher than the 40.8 million in January.
The survey also showed that 21.3 percent of the unemployed are college graduates, 14.6 percent are college undergraduates, and 31.7 percent are high school graduates.
Metro Manila and Calabarzon (Region 4-A) posted unemployment rates of more than 10 percent.
The NSO attributed the rise in the number of unemployed to fewer jobs in the agriculture sector.
“The drop in the employment rate is due to the decline in employment in the agriculture sector, with the number of agricultural workers falling from an estimated 12.468 million in April 2012 to 11.844 million in April 2013, or by about 624,000 workers,” it said.
However, the underemployment rate in April hit 19.2%, lower than January’s 20.9%. The NSO said there were 7.25 million underemployed workers in April compared to the 7.93 million in January.
The report showed that 48.2 percent of the unemployed are aged 15 to 24.
The services sector is comprised of 52.6 percent of the total employed, followed by the agriculture sector, which accounted for 31.3 percent. Workers in the industry sector made up 16.1 percent.
Employed persons are classified as either full-time or part-time workers. Full-time workers render work for 40 hours or more while part-time workers work for less than 40 hours.
People who expressed the desire to have additional hours of work in their present job, or to have additional job, or to have a new job with longer working hours are considered underemployed.
Bicol (Region 5), Northern Mindanao (Region 10) and Caraga (Region 13) the highest underemployment rates at 30 percent.
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) stressed the need for closer coordination between the academe and industry in the creation of decent, productive, and sustainable jobs.
“There is a need to improve the employability of worker applicants, particularly those with secondary and tertiary education. A more effective partnership among firms or establishments, academe and the government will provide useful inputs to the curriculum design,” said NEDA Officer in Charge (OIC) and Deputy Director General Emmanuel Esguerra.
“There should also be an aggressive promotion of skills training and apprenticeship programs to improve the quality of graduates, thereby lessening the uncertainty involved in hiring fresh graduates. The role of the government is crucial in reducing employment information or search costs,” he added.
Lawmakers also blamed the rising number of unemployed to the lack of development in the countryside.
House Assistant Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna of Citizens Battle Against Corruption party-list, said by offering enticing and stable fiscal incentives such as tax holidays, less import duties and red tape, the government can expect more investments in the countryside.
“The government should encourage and help foreign and local investors who are awash with cash to invest in the countryside in the form of manufacturing and service industries,” Tugna said. “If these materialize, more Filipinos will have jobs and economic growth will be felt by the people,” he added.
Senator-elect Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th meanwhile said the state should provide support for Filipinos who want to put up their businesses.
“We need to ensure that investments that come in bring in the jobs that our countrymen are looking for and provide incentives to those businesses that do,” Aquino said.
He added that the curriculum should be aligned with the needs of the market to alleviate underemployment.
Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan of Gabriela party-list meanwhile urged the Aquino administration to scrap its Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) and use the program’s funds to create jobs and livelihood programs.
“This administration should accept the fact that the growth rate it brags is not inclusive and does not translate into actual qualitative changes in the lives of the poor,” Ilagan, Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Women and Gender Equality, said.