2.93M jobless in May: Balisacan seeks learning ‘catch-up’ plan | Inquirer Business

2.93M jobless in May: Balisacan seeks learning ‘catch-up’ plan

By: - Reporter / @bendeveraINQ
/ 06:09 PM July 07, 2022

MANILA, Philippines—As available jobs failed to keep up while more Filipinos looked for work with economic reopening in full swing, the unemployment rate rose to 6 percent in May, equivalent to 2.93 million jobless people.

The country’s chief economist on Thursday (July 7) urged a “catch-up plan” in order to “regain the two years of learning lost during the COVID-19 pandemic” and address scarring among school children, who will make up the country’s future labor force.

Results of the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) May labor force survey (LFS) showed that the labor force population — aged 15 and above, with or without a job — rose to 49.01 million that month from 48.39 million last April and 48.46 million in May 2021.


The number of Filipinos with jobs rose to 46.08 million in May from 45.63 million a month ago and 44.72 million a year ago.


However, the bigger number of Filipinos in the labor market outpaced job creation, leading to a higher jobless rate than April’s 5.7 percent, or 2.76 million unemployed.

National Statistician Dennis Mapa nonetheless said the average unemployment rate of 5.8 percent during the first five months of 2022 was below the joblessness levels in 2020 and 2021 when the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic shed millions of jobs as the most stringent lockdowns shuttered thousands of businesses. “There’s improvement in the employment outlook,” he told a press briefing.

“The number of employed individuals increased by 1.4 million in May 2022 from May 2021, bringing total employment to 46.1 million,” said the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) in a statement.

“Significant employment gains were recorded in the services sector as tourism and business outlook improved with the further easing of restrictions. This brings net employment creation to 3.5 million above pre-pandemic levels,” Neda said.

But Mapa said end-May average jobless rate remained above the 5.1 percent in 2019, pre-pandemic.

Mapa said some election-related jobs added to employment in May ahead of the May 9 national elections, such as those engaged in web portal development, political organizations, and, to some extent, catering services.


However, the end of harvest season shed 733,000 jobs — the biggest month-on-month drop — in the agriculture and forestry sector in May compared to April, especially those growing bananas, fruits, rice, sugarcane, and vegetables, Mapa said. A larger decline of 766,000 agricultural jobs was recorded year-on-year, PSA data showed.

Just like in previous months, the underemployment rate remained high, at 14.5 percent in May. This meant 6.67 million employed Filipinos wanted higher pay or longer working hours. The number of underemployed a year ago and a month ago were lower at 5.49 million and 6.4 million, respectively.

Mapa said many of the underemployed were in the manufacturing, fisheries and aquaculture, agriculture and forestry, wholesale and retail trade, services, and transport sectors.

While sectors like manufacturing and trade were growing alongside economic recovery, Mapa said the quality of some jobs remained below par whenever pandemic restrictions moved to stricter levels. For instance, relaxed alert levels augured well for retail jobs, he noted.

For Neda, “increasing the employability of the current and future workforce will translate to more job creation and better employment outcomes in the medium term.”

“Amid external shocks, the government has sustained the economy’s growth momentum and steered it towards a higher growth path. Now, the immediate challenge is the full reopening of the economy. Over the medium term, the government will focus on creating more jobs, quality jobs, and green jobs through productivity-enhancing investments,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and Neda chief Arsenio Balisacan said.

“These productivity-enhancing investments will include strategies to increase employability such as improved quality of education, provision of opportunities for life-long learning, in-demand skills development, options to obtain micro-credentials, enhanced job facilitation programs and strengthened linkages between industry, business and training institutions for a more efficient labor market,” Balisacan added.

Balisacan said he “welcomed the move to immediately and safely resume face-to-face classes to increase domestic activities and prevent future productivity loss.”

“A learning catch-up plan is crucial. This will help secure better opportunities for future generations and ensure that our demographic dividend will not be wasted,” Balisacan said.

In a blog on Thursday, the Tokyo-based think tank Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) cited a recent report showing that “in terms of training non-affordability, the Philippines ranked highest among Asean countries, with over one in three youth responding that their lack of training was due to training opportunities being expensive.”

Here in the Philippines, “the main barriers to employment for the youth are attributed to a mismatch between the skills of new graduates and the needs of the job market, a lack of labor market information, and limited social networks among youth in low-income households,” according to the joint report of Asean Foundation, Plan International, and Google titled “Mind the Gap: Mapping Youth Skills for the Future in Asean” published last month.

“A recent study pointed out that youth NEET [not in education, employment or training] cite financial constraints as the main barrier to employment. The low uptake of training programs among the youth puts them at a disadvantage as they do not acquire new skills to adapt to the job market,” the report said.

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“In the Philippines, a lack of financial capacity or the high cost of training is the most widely-cited challenge to attending training among young people (36.1 percent). In connection to this, respondents also mentioned that incidental expenses such as the need to purchase materials or software (such as Microsoft Office, STATA, and SPSS) prohibit them from pursuing skills training programs,” it added.

TAGS: Arsenio Balisacan, Dennis Mapa, NEDA, PSA

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