Unemployment rises to 7.7% but Ibon estimates it at 11.2%

Published by rudy Date posted on March 18, 2009

Filipinos out of work have risen to 7.7 percent of the country’s available workforce and if the figure included those considered underemployed, about one in 10 Filipinos does not have a decent job, government data released yesterday showed.

The unemployment rate rose from 7.4 percent a year earlier, with another 180,000 persons without jobs pushing the total to 2.855 million, National Statistics Office (NSO) data released yesterday showed.

The government said the rise in unemployment rate was the result of a global downturn.

Research group Ibon Foundation believes the government figures released yesterday was a gross underestimation of joblessness, which it said had likely reached at least a massive 4.3 million, or nearly double the government estimate.

The real unemployment rate is likely to be at least 11.2 percent, according to Ibon. Combined with the 6.2 million unemployed means that there were at least 10.6 million Filipinos jobless or otherwise looking for more work and pay in January 2009, it said.

Ibon said its estimates discounted the unwarranted change in the official unemployment definition in April 2005, which it said “conveniently removes discouraged jobseekers and those not available or willing to immediately take up work from the labor force and hence does not count them as officially unemployed even if they do not have jobs.”

Ibon estimates that some 2.5 percent of the working age population 15 years and over should still be considered part of the labor force, which implies an additional 1.5 million jobless on top of the 2.9 million officially reported — for a total of roughly 4.3 million jobless.

“Employment generated was not enough to compensate for the bigger number of labor entrants for the period and those who have been unemployed,” Economic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto said in a statement.

Labor department officials have said at least 39,000 Filipinos lost their jobs since October last year as factories and companies laid off workers.

Manila and the surrounding provinces, which together account for more than half the country’s economic output, reported a jobless rate of 14 percent.

Of those who were employed, 36.3 percent or 6.238 million only had part-time work of less than 40 hours a week.

Recto said the P1.414-trillion 2009 national budget, which included higher spending on infrastructure and cash handouts to the poor, should “help minimize the adverse impact of the crisis to the most vulnerable sectors of the labor force.”

The economy grew by 4.6 percent for the whole of 2008, slowing from 7.2 percent for 2007. The government has recently cut its 2009 growth forecast to 4.4 percent.

Overseas jobs, a key outlet for the Philippines labor force, meanwhile showed significant signs of slowing in January, when remittances grew by just 0.1 percent from a year earlier despite the steep rise in people leaving to work abroad.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Gov. Amando Tetangco Jr. said the slight increase to $1.3 billion came in a “challenging external environment.”

Remittances from seamen were up but money sent back by land-based workers, particularly from the United States, had fallen “due to the global economic downturn,” Tetangco said in a statement.

Government figures showed 165,737 workers left the Philippines in January, a 25.3-percent increase year on year, the bank said.

The country, whose main export industry is electronics and components, has been hard hit by the global slowdown with overall shipments down 41 percent in January.

The Philippines is one of the world’s leading sources for skilled and unskilled workers with up to nine million people living and working in 140 countries.

The money has become a pillar of the domestic economy, making up about 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. Total remittances in 2008 rose to $16.429 billion, up 13.7 percent from 2007. – Tribune

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