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Employment woes

Let’s all hope for better economic prospects, which in turn can help generate jobs and recoup what was lost during the height of the pandemic last year.

Joshua Lao

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While the country’s latest unemployment data proved to be better than it was year-on-year, month-on-month and quarter-on-quarter figures say otherwise.

As reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), unemployment as of April 2021 was at 8.7 percent, which translates to about 4.14 million Filipinos without jobs.

While the 8.7 percent figure holds the same from the January 2021 data, jobless Pinoys back then were only 3.95 million.

In March, the unemployment rate was recorded at just 7.1 percent, a little better than the latest jobs data. Several private economists owe the higher unemployment to the state’s decision to revert the National Capital Region (NCR) and its nearby provinces to hard lockdowns, forcing businesses again to halt their operations, if not to operate at a limited capacity.

National Statistician Claire Dennis Mapa explained the increase in jobless Filipinos could be attributed partly to the higher labor force participation in April, which was recorded at 63.2 percent, or 47.41 million Filipinos, compared to the posted 45.20 million (60.5 percent) and 41.06 million (55.7 percent) in January 2021 and April 2020, respectively.

As the hard lockdowns were imposed in NCR and some areas of Regions 4A and 3, unemployment was obviously higher during the period.

Mapa said unemployment in NCR as of end-April 2021 was recorded at 14.4 percent, the second highest in their time series since the posted 15.8 percent in July 2020. Unemployment in NCR in January 2021 and April 2020 stood at 8.8 and 12.3 percent, respectively.

Similarly, Filipinos without jobs in Regions 4A and 3 inched higher to 13.4 and 8.8 percent in April 2021 from the recorded 13.1 and 8.5 percent on the same in January 2021.

Overall population estimate by the PSA for those 15 years old and above was listed at 75 million as of April 2021, slightly higher than the 74.7 million and 73.7 million in the same comparable period.

Of the mentioned population estimate, 91.3 percent, or 43.27 million, were employed, notably better than the 82.4 percent in April 2020, but lower than the 92.9 percent in March 2021.

While at it, underemployment or those with jobs but expressed the desire to have additional hours or work in their present jobs was posted at 17.2 percent, or around 7.45 million Filipinos, versus the registered 16 percent, or 6.59 million, in January 2021.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) recognized the significant impact of the pandemic to the economy, particularly to the labor market as the imposed restrictions left many Filipinos jobless.

BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno earlier said the labor market outcomes pose significant implications on wage dynamics, affecting the rise in prices and the economy’s ability to recover from the crisis.

“Changes in the labor market outcomes are likely to influence wage adjustments, in particular, how wages will vary across sectors and how fast wages will grow,” Diokno explained.

According to him, labor market conditions in terms of employment growth, in addition to wage adjustments, are considered among the determinants of demand-driven price pressures in the local economy.

Multilateral lender Asian Development Bank (ADB) likewise pointed out labor market programs will be crucial in the Philippines’ economic recovery.

“Workers in the Philippines will be facing a challenging next few years as the country rebounds from the pandemic. Further strengthening of active labor market programs will be critical for helping workers and enterprises to make this transition,” ADB said.

For the meantime, let’s all hope for better economic prospects, which in turn can help generate jobs and recoup what was lost during the height of the pandemic last year.

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