Jobless rate may double if crisis worsens in 2009

Published by rudy Date posted on December 31, 2008

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) yesterday warned of a record high unemployment rate in the coming year due to the prevailing global economic crisis.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said the country’s unemployment level could hit as high as 10 percent in January if the economic crisis worsens.

“The unemployment rate may increase from the current 6.8 percent to 7.8 percent, to even as high as 10 percent, if the pump-priming of western countries fails,” Roque said.

Roque stressed that a double-digit unemployment rate is a “worst- case scenario” projected by the government.

“But I doubt it will reach that point. It is a very remote possibility,” he said.

Based on the latest Labor Force Survey done by the National Statistics Office (NSO), the number of jobless people in the country has reached 2.5 million.

DOLE is now readying appropriate measures to prevent a further rise in unemployment with the projected one million new entrants to the labor force in April, according to Roque.

“We are now watching the April (unemployment) figure because of the new graduates who will be joining the labor force and could push the unemployment figure higher,” he said.

The labor chief, however, gave assurances that the government is now undertaking appropriate measures to address the possible rise in unemployment.

He said all DOLE regional offices will be gathering early next year to assess the situation in their respective areas and draw up appropriate programs.

“We are getting ready for the first semester of 2009 so we have to strategize plans early to address the effects of the economic crisis on employment,” he said.

Meanwhile, Roque reported that commercial establishments in Export Processing Zones are now under tight watch for possible mass retrenchment of workers.

He said the government is closely monitoring the commercial establishments so that immediate assistance can be provided to displaced workers.

Early next month, labor officials will be meeting with locators in the export zones to discuss possible interventions for the projected mass retrenchment of workers there.

“We will be visiting the firms in the export zones so we could immediately devise possible intervention to address what would happen to the workers that would be affected by the reduction of workforce,” Roque said.

There were reports that Texas Instruments, the biggest semi-conductor firm in the country, already signified plans to reduce its workforce early next year.

However, according to Roque, DOLE has yet to determine the number of local workers to be affected by the crisis.

But he admitted that they have already observed slight increase in notices of retrenchment filed before the department.

“Definitely it will affect the export industry and the export industry is dependent on credit so it’s really big,” Roque added.

He said he already instructed the regional DOLE offices to make the necessary arrangements with the export zones.

Based on the study conducted by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), exports would be the sector most affected by the financial crisis in 2009.

Roque admitted that the export industry employs the highest number of workers in the country. –Mayen Jaymalin, Philippine Star

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