The first job, like first love, is a milestone in a young person’s life. A great sense of accomplishment accompanies first time employees, a vindication of the college diploma and a demonstration of self-worth.
Unfortunately, not too many university graduates will find a job quickly or, getting one, may not be in the field he trained for. Economists call this “structural unemployment,” while businessmen and educators call it a “job mismatch.” Many youths, who took up accounting, teaching, law or nursing, will find out too late that their profession is overcrowded, or discover that businesses are looking for other “critical” skills.
The Philippines, despite the resiliency of the economy, is not immune to business closings or factory downsizing. Job losses are not traceable to domestic shutdowns alone, but to declining economies abroad. Recently, Labor Secretary Marianito Roque warned us that hundreds of Filipino seafarers could lose their jobs on the poor performance of Japanese shipping. What’s the good news? Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founding father, said the other day that despite looming recession, Singapore to survive needs foreigners in the long-term. Thousands of Filipinos are working in the island-state.
Even before the global economic crisis, high unemployment has chronically stalked the country. Joblessness has averaged seven per cent a year, aggravated by higher underemployment, workers who need an extra job or additional income to make a decent living. More than 8.5 million were unemployed as of January 2009. Young people from 15 to 24 years old dominated the jobless, nearly two out of three men. The majority of the unemployed were high school graduates and undergraduates, the latest National Statistics Office survey said.
The new graduates need not despair. Secretary Roque said at least 700,000 jobs are available, most of them in services, retail, tourism and call centers. If the new batch is not choosy, they could get an entry-level job, the secretary said. At the very least, the Class of 2009 should try any job for the first six months after graduation, after which they could look for jobs appropriate to their training and education.
The private sector is expected to save, if not shed, jobs. But the government, through its constellation of agencies has launched numerous jobs programs for the jobless and fresh graduates. The Department of Tourism, for example, will create 3,000 slots with a new P20-billion investment in hotel and resort building. The Department of Trade shall require proponents of BOT infrastructure projects to hire retrenched workers. An emergency employment program at the Department of Public Works and Highways would absorb 500,000 unemployed. Department of Labor and Employment’s Nurses Assigned in Rural Areas Program uses the skills of jobless registered nurses.
Last month, President Gloria Arroyo gathered top leaders of business, labor and government to a national job summit to respond to the global economic mess and its threat to jobs and standards of living. The tripartite meeting committed to invest P25 billion to job creation, totaling at least 1.3 million within the year. The program targets domestic and overseas labor markets.
Given these assurances, the members of Class 2009 should have at least a temporary job, probably at the minimum wage level or less. The first job may not be as glamorous or high-paying as expected, but, as Constantine Cavafy, one of the modern Greek poets, said: “Whatever job they give me, I’ll try to be useful to the country”