11 million Filipinos in adult labor force unemployed – SWS survey

Published by rudy Date posted on February 24, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – About 11 million Filipino adults or 27.9 percent of the adult labor force are unemployed, a recent survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed.

The survey, conducted from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1, 2008, also found hunger higher among families of the unemployed (31.4 percent) compared to families of the employed (consisting of private and government employees and the self-employed).

The percentage of unemployed adults in the SWS surveys has been 20 percent and above since May 2005, except for December 2007 when it was 17.5 percent, the survey firm said.

“In the SWS data series which began in 1993, unemployment was below 15 percent until March 2004, and then ranged from 16.5 percent to 19 percent from August 2004 to March 2005,” it said.

SWS said unemployment raises the vulnerability of families to hunger.

The non-commissioned survey found that Total Hunger, or experiencing involuntary hunger at least once in the past three months, was 31.4 percent among families of the unemployed, compared to 29.2 percent among families of private employees, 19.7 percent among families of the self-employed, and 12.7 percent among families of government employees.

Severe Hunger, referring to those who experienced involuntary hunger “Often” or “Always” in the last three months, is 7.6 percent among the unemployed, also 7.6 percent among private employees, 2.6 percent among the self-employed, and also 2.6 percent among government employees.

Moderate Hunger, referring to those who experienced it “Only Once” or “A Few Times” in the last three months, is 23.8 percent among the unemployed, compared to 21.6 percent among private employees, 17.1 percent among the self-employed, and 10.1 percent among government employees.

The SWS said its data on unemployment refer to the population of adults in the labor force. This is because respondents in the standard SWS surveys are those at least 18 years old.

The 1993-2008 figures are consistently based on the traditional definition of unemployment as not working and at the same time looking for work. Those not working but not looking for work are excluded from the labor force; these are housewives, retired, disabled, students, etc., the SWS said.

On the other hand, the official lower boundary of the labor force has always been 15 years of age. Formerly, the official definition of unemployment was not working and looking for work.

However, from April 2005 onward, the new official definition has included the concept of availability for work; it subtracts those not available for work, even though looking for work, and adds those available for work but not seeking work for the following reasons: tired/believe no work is available, awaiting results of a job application, temporarily ill/disabled, bad weather, and waiting for rehire/job recall.

“If the official definition is applied, the unemployment rate among adults 18 years old is 22.3 percent in the SWS December 2008 survey,” it said.

“It is lower than when computed using the traditional definition because the correction for those looking for work but ‘not truly available’ is much larger than the correction for those ‘actually available’ though not looking for work at the moment,” it said.

The Fourth Quarter of 2008 Social Weather Survey was conducted using face-to-face interviews of 1,500 adults in Metro Manila, the balance of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

It has sampling error margins of ±2.5 percent for national percentages, ±6 percent for Metro Manila, Visayas and Mindanao, and ±4 percent for balance Luzon.

Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Employment reported that over 500 workers are losing their jobs or getting less pay every day due to the global financial crisis.

Data from the DOLE-Bureau of Labor and Employment and Statistics (BLES) showed a total of 84,615 workers nationwide or a daily average of 562 workers were affected by the financial slump for the past five months.

Of the total figure, 39,309 workers were retrenched from their jobs permanently, while 45,306 were placed under reduced working hours.

A majority of the displaced workers were from manufacturing and electronics companies.

Manufacturing workers accounted for 64,912 of the total affected workers.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque, for his part, said at least 39,000 Filipinos have lost their jobs since October as factories and companies laid off workers amid the deepening global financial crisis.

“As of last Friday, we have about 39,000 fall outs. These are workers who have lost their jobs mainly in the electronics and manufacturing sector,” Roque told the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.

The 39,000 included more than 5,400 overseas-based Filipinos who had lost their jobs in the Middle East and Taiwan, which accounted for the bulk of the returning workers, Roque said. He added the figure was based on official reports by industry leaders as well as trade groups.

He said the government had allotted P7 billion to create 180,000 “emergency jobs” this year as a stop-gap measure to prevent unemployment from ballooning.

Based on the data gathered by the labor department from October to Feb. 16, Calabarzon suffered the brunt of the economic crisis where a total of 49,613 workers were either displaced or were placed under reduced working hours.

CARAGA region reported the second biggest number of crisis-affected workers at 10,225 for the past four months, followed by Central Visayas with 8,529 and Central Luzon with 6,212.

But Labor Undersecretary Rosalinda Baldoz maintained that the number of displaced workers nationwide due to the crisis has remained low and still within manageable levels.

Baldoz noted that so far only 435 or 1.5 percent of the more than 33,000 commercial establishments nationwide were affected by the crisis.

She noted that the number of displaced workers only accounted for a low 2.5 percent of the 3.3 million employed in the country.

“More than 3,000 of the displaced workers were provided emergency employment and another 5,000 affected workers also availed of the government’s various assistance programs,” Baldoz added.

She also reported that displacement of Filipino workers has already tapered off.

“We are no longer getting any report of OFWs being laid off and forced to return home. I think the retrenchment abroad has already slowed down,” she said.

Government has enough resources

Roque said the government has enough resources to create temporary employment opportunities in the next two years, but would be hard pressed if the crisis extended beyond that.

He also noted that many Filipinos lost their jobs in the real estate and services sector in Dubai, but had managed to find employment elsewhere in the United Arab Emirates.

He said of the estimated 300,000 Filipinos in the UAE, 2,000 were now out of work.

Placements for Filipino nurses in the United States were also “dropping,” with only 700 contracts up for grabs last year, compared with up to 8,000 available three years ago, he said.

The jobless rate among Filipinos abroad could be much higher, he conceded, noting that a large portion of the eight million Filipino workers abroad were without proper documentation.

The government has already launched a retraining program for those who lost their jobs, with the business process outsourcing sector expected to provide opportunities as it is projected to grow 20 percent this year despite the crisis, Roque said.- Helen Flores and Mayen Jaymalin, Philippine Star

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