DAVAO CITY—A World Bank official has called the huge number of unemployment and underemployment in the Philippines as a huge challenge for the Aquino administration.
“The need for good jobs — jobs that raise real wages or bring people out of poverty — is an overwhelming challenge,” Motoo Konoshi, World Bank Country Director, speaking before hundreds of local and international delegates at the Philippine Development Forum at the Marco Polo hotel here on Monday, said.
He cited collaboration as a simple formula to address the situation.
“We all need to collaborate a lot to ensure that all of our programs and assistance or policy reforms are filtered through the lens of the creation of jobs,” he said.
He said inclusive growth (creating jobs), the focus of the conference, meant addressing the need to create a total of 14.6 million jobs in the Philippines between now and 2016.
Konishi placed at 10 million the number of unemployed or underemployed Filipinos, with 1.1 million more entering the labor force every year, or a total of 14.6 million jobs that should be created during President Aquino’s term.
He said the domestic job market in the formal, services, manufacturing industries and jobs abroad have not been enough to absorb a lot of people getting into the labor force.
Konishi said that to address the labor problem, all other sectors in the economy, particularly agribusiness and agriculture, must contribute more significantly in creating jobs and reducing poverty.
He made special mention of Mindanao as an island in the Philippines that has been in urgent need of more jobs.
“Job creation is more urgent in Mindanao as jobs contribute also to social cohesion,” Konishi, also PDF co-chair, said.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said that to meet the targeted inclusive growth of the Aquino administration, a special focus should be given to priority economic drivers, most especially, employment.
Balisacan, in an interview at the sidelines of the opening of the two-day PDF, said the country’s economic planners have been giving “a big push to employment so growth will fully become inclusive.”
He said the big challenge for 2013 would be focusing on the fundamentals like employment so Filipinos could feel and experience the growth.
Creating new drivers of growth, particularly manufacturing, BPO, tourism and agribusiness would create more quality jobs, he said.
In his speech, Balisacan said the country’s initial estimates suggested that US$3B in investments in BPO, tourism, and agribusiness would create 621,000 jobs, both directly and indirectly through multiplier effects.
Tourism, he said, would expand job opportunities in the countryside. “To generate more and better employment, we need to simplify labor regulations to enable industries to adapt to the country’s changing economic structure. We will also continue to address problems of skills mismatch,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mindanao Development Authority (Minda) Secretary Luwalhati Antonino remains bullish about the prospects of Mindanao in business and development, with the awaited signing of the peace pact between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Antonino, who made the Mindanao presentation during the PDF, said Mindanao’s economy has been faring well in the last two years, and that despite the global challenges and the natural disasters that hit Mindanao in 2011 and 2012, the last two years also showed not only major reforms and economic resilience, but also breakthroughs in the peace process with MILF.
Antonino, however, warned that extreme weather conditions brought about by climate change could easily wipe out what communities and industries have built over the years.
Antonino also appealed for national government’s support to help speed up Mindanao’s full recovery and increase Mindanao’s resiliency to climate change.
She said that this can be done without setting aside the development in areas that will soon be included in the Bangsamoro.
Antonino said the experience with Tropical Storm “Sendong” and Typhoon “Pablo” showed how easy it is for typhoons and flooding to wipe out communities and industries built over the years.
“Natural occurrences such as these are bound to happen and are beyond our control so let us work on what is within our capacity to control and manage,” she said.
“Reconstruction efforts toward full recovery and long term development of typhoon hit areas should be fast-tracked,” Antonino said.
“The governance, economic and peace landscape of Mindanao is positively changing,” Antonino said. “But we have also seen that even these positive developments can be threatened by our changing climate and natural environment.
“As we brace for what seem to be a new norm for Mindanao, the more that we should be cohesive in making Mindanao more resilient to shifting natural environment as well as the changing global developments,” she said.