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Unemployment rate increases in January 2017

Philippine unemployment rate increased in January following job losses in the country's agriculture sector. Philstar.com/File

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine unemployment rate in January 2017 rose compared to the same month last year due to recent typhoons that affected the agriculture sector, according to the National Economic and Development Authority.

Based on the January 2017 Labor Force Survey, the unemployment rate in the country increased to 6.6 percent in January 2017. This is higher than the 5.7 percent recorded in January 2016.

“We mainly observe the employment losses in the agriculture sector, which has been greatly affected by typhoons Nina and Auring that hit our country last December and January,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia.

Pernia said that the agriculture sector accounted for the second-largest share of employment in the country at 25.5 percent. This means that the sector has shed an estimated 882,000 workers or two thirds of total employment losses.

“The government must focus interventions to diversify the sources of income of our workers in the agriculture sector, increase labor participation of women, and address youth unemployment and underutilization,” he added.

Because of the increase in unemployment rate, the number of employed Filipinos also declined from 94.3 percent last year to 93.4 percent in January of 2017. This translates to 39.3 million employed individuals, a number which is lower by 1.34 million or 3.3 percent compared to the same month last year.

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NEDA however clarified that the rate this year was still lower than the average of 7.4 percent recorded from 2006-2015.

In addition to the effects of typhoons on the agriculture sector, the uptick in unemployment was also attributed to the temporary nature of election-related jobs which increased last year. The same trend was observed in January 2011, NEDA said.

By educational level, the increase in unemployed Filipino came from those with only elementary education, which increased by 128,000, followed by those with high school education which inched up by 88,000.

Unemployment among the youth and adults also increased. Youth unemployment went up to 15.6 percent while the rate for adults jumped to 4.8 percent. According to NEDA, bulk of the increase in the number of unemployed came from adult workers which saw an increase of 181,000.

In terms of underemployment, which refers to those who are working but want more work, the country saw a decrease from 19.7 percent last year to 16.3 percent this year. This number translates to a decrease of 1.6 million workers. NEDA said that this was the lowest rate recorded since 2006.

Pernia said that job generation would be enhanced considering that long pipeline of infrastructure projects President Rodrigo Duterte’s government had prepared.

“The prospects for job generation may be enhanced with the long pipeline of infrastructure projects for implementation on a 24/7 work mode basis under the current administration,” Pernia explained.

He added that since several projects were foreign-funded the government must ensure that foreign contractors would recruit technical and blue-collar workers in the local labor market.

Pernia also bared that critical interventions to address youth unemployment were already stipulated in the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022. These measures are targeted to reduce the number of the youth who are not studying, employed nor in training.

He said that scholarships and linkages between vocational and technical schools and colleges and universities offering TVET programs would go a long way to improve access.

“Policy and regulatory changes can also adversely affect employment. Government must continue skills development and retooling programs through continuing education and training for the affected workers, and adjust policies where warranted,” said Pernia.

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