It is heartening to read a little bit of good news about an easing in unemployment in the country, giving us a break from our daily dose of gloomy headlines about what ails Philippine society.
We welcome with relief the report by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) that its latest Labor Force Survey showed that overall unemployment rate in the country fell to 5.3 percent in January from 6.6 percent a year earlier.
An uplifting follow-up to that is data on employment during the same period, showing that the number of Filipinos with jobs increased to 41.75 million from 39.34 million employed in January 2017. That is the reading for the climb in employment rate to 94.7 percent in January from 93.4 percent a year earlier.
These improvements in the labor market, according to Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, indicate that more Filipinos are encouraged to join and rejoin the labor force, and that more people are being employed.
We want to be encouraged by what Pernia said further: “This signals that the economy is responding positively to the economic reforms and programs that the government has been laying down.”
At the same time, however, we need to be mindful of the fact that the increase in the underemployment rate – the proportion of the employed wanting additional work hours – to 18 percent from 16.3 percent in the comparative period, suggests some weakness in the quality of jobs being created.
Asian Development Bank’s Philippine economist Aekapol Chongvilaivan cites that fact as a challenge to the Philippines to fully translate its impressive economic performance into decent job generation and poverty reduction.
To achieve this, the ADB expert says, the policy will need to weigh in on formal sector development and training programs that improve employability among workforces, especially among the youth and the poor.
Pernia, for his part, also sees the right direction where the government must be headed: continue to raise investments and improve productivity, which in turn, will help boost the productive sectors of the economy and encourage the generation of higher quality employment opportunities.
The need to create new businesses and amend market regulations to boost manufacturing output is imperative. It must be done as soon as possible, along with the reduction of foreign investment restrictions and passage of Package 2 of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program, which should result in lower corporate taxes. The benefits to companies should accrue to the creation of more quality jobs.
The PSA report should also call our attention to a very vital and significant component of today’s good news, which is the continuing drop in unemployment among the youth. The latest survey shows that unemployment rate among the youth fell to 12.5 percent in January 2018, the lowest rate recorded for January since 2009.
Pernia and the rest of his economic team must rally both the government and the private sector to sustain the trend and achieve this year’s target of reducing youth unemployment to 19.5 – 21.5 percent.
We should support his push for allowing part-time work, especially in low-paying jobs that should benefit school dropouts by enabling them to study or be trained further for higher paying jobs in the future.
All other employment-related programs beneficial to the youth deserve our support to protect them from the wiles of the destroyers, rather than builders, of life, such as the recruiters of the IS terrorists now reported to be roaming Metro Manila’s streets looking for prey.