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Business

More Pinoys looking for extra income as job quality declines

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star
More Pinoys looking for extra income as job quality declines
In this undated photo shows a group of workers.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — More Filipinos are looking for additional work in June amid the deteriorating quality of jobs available even as the unemployment level was unchanged during the month.

The labor situation in the Philippines has plateaued as the latest report of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that the unemployment rate is unchanged at 7.7 percent in June.

This accounts for 3.76 million unemployed Filipinos in the labor force. An additional 30,000 Filipinos were added to those jobless from the 3.73 million in May.

The stagnant unemployment rate occurred even as restrictions were lowered in June, showing that reopening the economy does not necessarily solve the country’s labor market woes.

More than the unemployment, however, is the underemployment rate or the proportion of workers looking for more hours of work.

Underemployment went up to 14.2 percent or 6.41 million, from 12.3 percent or 5.49 million in May. Nearly one million additional Filipinos failed to get enough work hours to earn adequate income.

Leonardo Lanzona, labor economist and professor at the Ateneo de Manila University, said the increase in underemployment clearly shows that the jobs being created during the period are low paying and of poor quality.

“Unemployment may have remained stable, but people are taking on jobs that they would not normally accept. As indicated in the underemployment figures, these are not enough to keep them afloat,” Lanzona told The STAR.

Unfortunately, Lanzona emphasized that such a fragile labor market situation would only get worse with the coming two-week lockdown starting Friday.

“If income and health security, through cash transfers and health programs, meaning paid leaves, is not given, the lockdown can prove to be ineffective as people will continue to search for work despite the heightened risks,” Lanzona said.

PSA chief Dennis Mapa said every episode of lockdown would really impact the country’s employment numbers.

“If we base on our data from last year and the April ECQ (enhanced community quarantine), unemployment rates are really going up. That is already the expectation,” Mapa said.

In a joint statement, the country’s economic managers said the latest job data shows the limits of job creation without major relaxations in quarantine restrictions, especially in Metro Manila where the bulk of economic activities are.

“Although the ECQ imposition may temporarily impact employment outcomes in August, the government is determined to maximize this period to accelerate vaccination in high-risk areas in order to safely resume economic activities and restore jobs,” the economic team said.

With the government’s continued reliance on lockdown measures to prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases, Lanzona does not really expect significant improvements in the labor market for the remaining months of the year.

“The current mindset of the government is to maintain its fiscal balance. Because of this, we cannot expect anything more than what they are doing now,” Lanzona said.

“The times call for more spending. Aggressive fiscal policies are needed. In the long-run, we will all be dead,” he said.

Further, the country’s labor force participation rate, or those aged 15 years and above, improved to 65 percent of the total working age population from 64.6 percent.

This is equivalent to around 48.84 million economically active Filipinos, whether employed or looking for work.

In turn, 360,000 additional jobs were created between May and June but the employment rate steadied at 92.3 percent.

President Duterte’s economic team encouraged establishments to continue innovating to ensure business and public service continuity, thereby enabling more people to work and earn income.

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