Presidential bets urged to bare employment plans

Published by rudy Date posted on May 2, 2010

ON Labor Day and a few days before Filipinos troop to the polls, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) challenged all presidential candidates to bare their plans to create badly needed new jobs and arrest mounting unemployment.

“We are very disappointed that up to now, the presidential candidates have not offered—not even in broad strokes—strategies as to how they intend to aggressively generate employment,” said TUCP secretary-general and former Sen. Ernesto Herrera.

“We need sound, aggressive and actionable strategies to propel jobs growth in an orderly manner and remove hurdles to full employment,” said Herrera, former chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development.

According to the latest Labor Force Survey, the results of which were released in December, the number of totally jobless Filipinos increased to 7.1 percent as of October 2009, from 6.8 percent in the same month in 2008.

The survey indicated that 2.72 million able-bodied Filipinos were completely jobless, while another 6.9 million were underemployed, or had little work and were desperately looking for additional work and income.

The TUCP noted the study used as basis for its road map by the National Competitiveness Council, estimating that the country has to create 15 million good-quality jobs over the next five years—three to four million every year—to bridge the unemployment gap and bring the nation to newly industrialized status.

Between 2006 and 2009, the Arroyo administration managed to create only an average of 737,250 new jobs annually, falling short of its one-million-per-year target, and barely enough to cope with the yearly entrants to the labor force, according to TUCP.

“Jobs provide people with incomes that enable them to buy goods and services or to save. The increase in consumption stimulates the market, revives the economy and provides revenue for government. And the accumulation of savings provides funds for investment,” Herrera said.

He cited the need for the government to take the lead in creating jobs. Herrera proposed a national employment plan that would compel every agency and state-owned firm to carry out more labor-intensive projects.

To make sure these agencies do, Herrera said Congress should consider as factors for approving their budget not only their performance, but also the number of jobs they were able to provide.

“Let us ensure that every public project and that every private sector endeavor is highly labor-intensive. Let us compel each agency to set achievable employment targets. Then let us assign an interagency panel to monitor performance in terms of jobs creation,” he said.

As to the private sector, Herrera proposed that loan applications with government financial institutions be approved on the basis of the number of jobs the projects to be funded would create.

He said the government should focus on public works that have the highest job-
creation potential and generate the highest returns. These projects, such as farm-to-market roads, school buildings and irrigation systems, are also urgently needed, he added.

Whether such projects involve new construction or maintenance, they provide direct employment, help lower cost of production and consequently, also reduce the prices of goods, according to the former senator.

In a country with high rates of unemployment and underemployment, capital-intensive methods of production are highly questionable, Herrera pointed out.

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