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Gov’t hit over high unemployment rate in rural areas

MANILA, Philippines - A group of militant farmers has criticized the government for not prioritizing rural development, which they said produced a huge number of unemployed Filipinos.

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) said the Aquino government only promoted business assisted programs that produced low income for farmers and deprived lands to tillers.

UMA chairperson Lito Bais said they are not expecting President Aquino to address the high unemployment rate in the countryside.

“Agricultural workers together with the rest of the rural folks should not depend on the grace of the President. He had shown his true color in the Hacienda Luisita issue,” he said.

The group also pointed out that landlessness in the countryside is still the main cause of massive unemployment.

They said in an economy which is basically agricultural, the lack of lands to be distributed among the rural folks is equal to growing unemployment.

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“Yet even if a small percent of them find ways to hold jobs, they still face the problem of job security, decent wage and benefits,” Bais said.

According to the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), rural workers are among the lowest salary earner and among the poorest in the countryside.

“The entire agriculture sector posted the lowest labor productivity rate of only P56,728 in 2012, way below the industry and services sectors’ rates of P351,024 and P181,850, respectively, “the NSCB said.

It said farmers were only paid an average of P156.8 a day in 2011 while fishermen took home P178.43.

The same NSCB report said that agriculture employs more than a third of the country’s labor force and the high incidence rate of poverty in the sector is not a surprise.

“Given the low labor productivity and wage rates, it is not surprising that across basic sectors, poverty incidence is highest among fishermen and farmers at 41.4 percent and 36.7 percent, respectively, in 2009, way above the poverty incidence for the whole country at 26.5 percent in 2009,” the report said.

Bais criticized the government’s plan of colla-borating with local and foreign agricultural companies to increase jobs in the countryside.

“Selling our agricultural lands to the highest bidder will further decimate job opportunities in the countryside,” he said.

He said the government should implement a genuine land reform that gives farmers enough support and power to make their land productive on their own way.

“Only through a genuine land reform can the problem of unemployment be resolved particularly in the countryside,” Bais said.

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