Jobless, underemployed Filipinos fewer in January
MANILA, Philippines – The number of jobless Filipino as well as those who wanted a more stable job slid in January, as new jobs mainly in the services sector almost quadrupled in 2014, the government reported on Thursday.
The Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) latest Labor Force Survey showed that the unemployment rate last January declined to 6.6 percent from 7.5 percent in the same month in 2014.
The underemployment rate, meanwhile, dropped to 17.5 percent in January from 19.5 percent during the same month in 2014, the survey showed.
The underemployed, under the PSA’s definition, are “[e]mployed persons who express 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.”
According to the PSA, the comparative estimates excluded figures from Region 8 or Eastern Visayas, which was the most badly hit area by super-typhoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) in late 2013, as no survey was conducted in the region in 2014.
In a statement, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) noted that as the number of employed Filipinos inched up by 2.8 percent to 37.5 million last January from 36.4 million in the same month in 2014, the new jobs generated during the one-year period in between reached 1.04 million, or nearly four times bigger than the 281,000 jobs created during the previous year.
“The labor market got a boost from a stronger growth in all sectors mainly driven by services which grew by 3.9 percent, contributing a 766,000 net employment gain in January 2015,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said.
“With employment growing faster at 2.8 percent compared to the labor force growth of 1.8 percent and partly due to the stronger growth of services employment, the number of unemployed went down by 334,000 to 2.6 million during the period,” added Balisacan, who is also Neda’s Director-General.
As for the dwindling number of underemployed to 6.5 million last January from 7.1 million a year ago, Balisacan attributed it to a growing domestic job market in terms of both quantity and quality. “[T]he number of underemployed persons contracted among wage and salary workers, as well as self-employed workers, which possibly means greater availability of more remunerative jobs and more profitable ventures.”
These employment gains are expected to redound to the incomes of poor families, the NEDA chief said. “[T]he labor market is becoming robust, and we hope that this will continue and further benefit the poor, especially as the economy grows faster at a higher trajectory.”
Balisacan, however, expressed alarm over rising food prices, which he said might erode income gains.
Last week, the PSA reported that the poverty incidence among individual Filipinos increased by 1.2-percentage points year-on-year to 25.8 percent during the first half of 2014. The poverty incidence among Filipino families also rose by 1.2 percentage points to 20 percent during the same period.
NEDA had partly blamed the higher poverty rate to higher food costs, especially of rice.
“The recent report on poverty highlighted the impacts of high food prices mostly to low-income families. Our significant strides in poverty reduction through better quality jobs and higher incomes must move forward along with cheaper food prices. Elevated rice prices are of particular concern, as rice takes up about 20 percent of the budget of the poor,” Balisacan said.
Also, “the government must continue its efforts to create a more supportive business environment, allowing the private sector to create more and better jobs,” the Neda chief added.
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