MANILA, Philippines—Hounded by criticism that economic growth has not resulted in jobs, President Aquino said on Tuesday that jobs have always been available, but that job applicants have not been able to provide the skills required for employment.
The President said that job postings at the Phil-JobNet website have risen to 230,000, up from 40,000 when he assumed the presidency in June 2010. He said there were only 117,000 applicants.
Clearly, Aquino said, the gap between the number of jobs available and applicants was a sign that some job-seekers lacked the skills required of the jobs.
He said the government, through the Department of Labor and Employment, Technical Education Skills and Development Authority, and the Commission on Higher Education, has adopted measures to ensure that the skills of graduates of college degrees or vocational courses would match the job requirements.
“There are courses now focused on the BPO (business processing outsourcing) alone,” he told reporters in an ambush interview after speaking at the Philippine Development Forum in Davao City. The interview was aired over government-run radio.
News of the 6.6-percent full year economic growth in 2012 topping government targets had been greeted with skepticism by some economists who said it was unclear whether this would translate into better incomes for many. They said employment and structural changes would drive the growth.
Expounding on his point about the gap between skills and jobs available, Aquino said that in the past, many students changed courses, say from Nursing to Physical Therapy and vice versa, depending on which was the “hot industry.’’
Hence, the need for schools and training institutions to update students about the trends of employment and train them to be attuned to these by equipping them with the necessary skills, he said.
“So we will try our best to know about the job prospects—not today, but two years, four years from now—and inform the students to make sure what they’re taking up matches the job opportunities,” he said.
The President said job creation has always been the administration’s focus, but admitted that he has ordered a review of a government survey on job creation during the past two and a half years.
“During the campaign, my first promise was job creation. So there’s actually a meeting being scheduled to assess all that has been done for the past two and a half years,” he said. “The statistics being trumpeted didn’t make that much sense to me when I was reviewing it. So I said the collection should be fine-tuned, so we can better address the problem and offer better solutions.’’
Aquino said he could not see why the government survey showed the unemployment rate going down when each year brought in a fresh batch of 1 million job-seekers and only an average of 860,000 jobs were being created, leaving a difference of 140,000.
“If there’s an addition of 140,000 [to the ranks of the unemployed], the unemployment rate should go up. I may have committed a mistake in my Math. I want those who conducted the survey to explain how this happened,’’ he said.
In his speech at the forum, the President told skeptics that the reforms he had undertaken would go beyond 2016.
“There are some who wonder if our reforms will only work in the short term. They fear there may be a deadline—a limit to the success we’re experiencing. I quote, `Will this outlast us? Will the changes in the Philippines extend beyond 2016?’ I have no such fear, because I have always had faith in our bosses: the Filipino people,” he said.
“Today, change is tangible—from the thousands of new classrooms, to the new businesses setting up shop, to the tourists who continue to flock to our shores. But this is only the tip of the iceberg: a sea change is also taking place in our mindsets,” he said.
“Instead of knee-jerk solutions, we are thinking things through to find the best possible answers. Instead of apathy, a strong demand for justice. Instead of passivity, a new-found determination and optimism that positive change can be won for the country. Our people have seen how we all have worked to empower them: they know what true dedication to service can achieve—and they will demand nothing less in the future,” he continued.
The President said the forum was a good occasion to remind the people that nation-building involved everyone
“Nation building is never about those at the top huddling together to impose their ideas on everyone else; it is about the whole spectrum of society pulling together, steadily marching together towards a single direction. At its core is a simple concept: the genuine desire to help each other—not only in a single forum, or the term of an administration, but over the course of our lives,’’ he said.