35 million jobless Filipinos

VIRTUAL REALITY - Tony Lopez - The Philippine Star

President Marcos Jr. has a new economic team.

It is led by a tandem – Secretary Frederick D. Go, the Special Assistant to the President for Investment and Economic Affairs, and Secretary Ralph Recto for the Department of Finance.  They are, in the words of BBM (Bongbong Marcos), “distinguished leaders whose expertise, vision and dedication will undoubtedly contribute to the prosperity of our country.”

Deck Go and Ralph Recto come into service while “dark clouds still gather on the horizon, unleashing headwinds that will temper – maybe even damage or trample – our optimistic outlook,” said the President when he inducted the mighty duo on Jan. 12, 2024.

Frets the President: “Abroad, escalating geopolitical tensions could dampen global trade, tighten global financing, as well as trigger fuel and food shocks that could tow inflation back up. And that is why we are watching it very, very closely and have some very well-thought out options should that occur. Here at home, as we have been warning, there is the distinct possibility of the beginnings of El Nin?o starting now and extending until the end of the first quarter or perhaps even extending into the second quarter. So, whatever harm it could cause, we have to cushion the impact with timely and targeted interventions so that food prices will not surge as a result of farm outputs falling short.”

BBM’s answer to the dark clouds and headwinds ahead: Grow the economy.

The economy is growing, yes, at a 5+ to 6 percent clip last year and this year, but that growth is not sufficient to feed a population growing at 1.84 million new babies a year and employ a labor force that is growing at one million jobless a year.

There are effectively 35.33 million jobless Filipinos.

They include the 27.28 million (34.1 percent of a total labor force of 80 million, those are who are 15 and above) who the government says are not part of the labor force because they are not looking for work, the 6.16 million who are underemployed (they don’t like their job, they are underpaid for their qualifications) and the 1.89 million who the government claims should be the only ones officially considered jobless.

The government has this fancy term called labor force participation rate – 65.9 percent of a labor force of 80 million. It is computed by deducting from the 80 million who are 15 and above (the total labor force), those people who are not looking for work – 100 less 65.9 percent or 34.1 percent. Multiply 34.1 by 80 million, you get 27.28 million who are said to be not looking for work.

Deduct the 27.28 million from 80 million, you have a labor force of just 52.42 million. These 52.42 million people are what you call the labor force participants; hence, a labor force participation rate of 65.9 percent.

In effect, to lower the number of jobless Filipinos, the government simply ignores the 27.28 million able-bodied humans not looking for work. Unhappily, these humans have stopped looking for work because they cannot find any or because the pay is not attractive enough.

Among the families of the 35 million jobless, many have sent breadwinners abroad to seek better jobs, better pay, better opportunities, a better future.

There are 12 million Filipinos deployed abroad. They are our biggest export. They make $33 billion a year, 3.6x our foreign direct investment inflow of $9 billion annually.

Babies manufacturing is the Philippines’ biggest industry. And it is one of the fastest growing in the world – 1.6 percent per year or 1.84 million babies a year.

Curiously, countries with a higher population growth rate than the Philippines, like Syria, Sudan, Niger, Burundi, Uganda, etc, are in a state of war, civil war, severe poverty or are the world’s top failed states.

So if the Philippines does not manage its fast growing population and its fast growing labor force, it might become a failed state.

Thankfully, BBM is painfully aware of the dire possibilities.

Said the President at the oath-taking of Ralph and Deck: “The challenge before all of us then is not just to grow the economy but to make sure that such growth is felt by our people of all parts of society.”

“The dividends of economic growth must not just manifest in raised family incomes, but in the improvement in our infrastructure, in our health care systems, our educational systems.”

“So, in these endeavors, we will depend upon the sound advice of our new Secretary of Investment and Economic Affairs in the person of Mr. Frederick D. Go.”

“Secretary Go brings a wealth of experience that he has gained for more than three decades in the private sector.”

As for Ralph, Marcos Jr. said: “He will be a major player on how we stay on the path of growth, meet and even surpass our medium-term fiscal targets and achieve our developmental targets.”

“He will promote not just ease in paying taxes, but also in efficiently and effectively spending those collections, because the citizen’s reward for tax compliance should be better and more responsive public services.”

“He will continue to help devise strategies that will tame inflation through a basket of responses, ranging from plugging supply gaps to injecting non-monetary measures so that prices will be stable.”

“I am certain that he will be championing reforms, leverage his influence in both houses of Congress into passing bills that accelerate growth, draw in investments and create better jobs while raising funds that will be invested back for human and physical capital formation.”

My thoughts: Mr. President, the challenge or Job No. 1 for Ralph and Deck, in fact, for the entire government, is – jobs, jobs, jobs. If we cannot produce the jobs, we are a failed state.

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Email: [email protected]

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