Unemployment problem of PH youth
More than a year since the government imposed quarantine measures in various parts of the country to stem the spread of COVID-19, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is nowhere to be seen.
Although several vaccines have been delivered and injected to select groups of people, their impact on the state of the pandemic in the country has been hardly felt.
In fact, last week, the number of Filipinos infected by the virus reached a level higher than that experienced during the initial months of the lockdown. Some hospitals in Metro Manila are even close to full capacity for patients afflicted with the virus.
It is as if there had been no lockdown at all.
In response to the virus upsurge, the government has once more ordered the strict implementation of social distancing and mask wearing rules and restricted the operation of nonessential businesses.
This means, the remaining days of this month and the two succeeding months that, until the pandemic happened, are traditionally considered periods of leisure and relaxation for majority of Filipinos would have to be spent indoors.
The businesses that usually enjoy a boom at this time of the year, e.g., transportation companies, beach resorts, travel agencies and malls, have no choice but to reduce or suspend operation.
There is no stopping, however, the graduation of thousands of Filipinos all over the country who have completed their college education despite the difficulties brought about by restrictive learning processes.
Whether or not those graduates have satisfactorily met the academic requirements of their courses even without the benefit of face-to-face classes, laboratory work or other similar learning mechanisms is a big question mark.
We can only assume their school administrators faithfully complied with the rules on academic education before conferring their students their college degrees.
Sadly, the new graduates will have to contend with the same problem that has beset (and continues to do so) their predecessors last year—lack of employment opportunities. Local and foreign jobs are scarce.
In less distressful times, that addition to the country’s workforce would be considered a “plus” rather than a “minus.”
A recent study conducted by Oxford Economics, a global economics and quantitative analysis company based in the United Kingdom, reported that the Philippines’ youthful population could help increase its gross domestic product by an average of 5.8 percent between now and 2035.
According to official records, with an approximate population of 106 million (and counting, no thanks to the Catholic Church’s continued opposition to birth regulation), the median age of Filipinos is 24 years, an age that is considered their most productive period until they reach 50 or so years old.
When properly harnessed, that age bracket, which comprises about 70 million Filipinos, is considered by economists as a “sweet spot” in any country’s economic development.
That was the same age group that contributed immensely to the quick recovery of Japan and South Korea from the ravages of World War II and Korean War, respectively.
In contrast, our Asean neighbors Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, including economic juggernaut China, are classified as aging societies due to the high life expectancy and low birth rates of their citizens.
From a demographic standpoint, these countries do not have enough young people to provide for the economic and retirement needs of their senior citizens.
Aside from that, funds that can otherwise be used to, among others, increase productivity and improve educational facilities, have to be diverted to programs that would address the medical problems of their elderly elders.
For now, the Philippines does not have that demographic problem. Instead, it’s faced with the issue of maximizing the economic value of its young population.
They cannot and should not be made to remain idle while waiting for the pandemic to run its course and the economy to get back to its prepandemic days.
Hopefully, the adage “an idle mind is the workshop of the devil” will not get into our youth’s consciousness.
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