Challenge of unemployment surge besets

Published by rudy Date posted on May 27, 2011

PNoy Aquino administration’s first year

MANILA: Unemployment, a major problem promised to be solved by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III when he assumed office last June, has worsened in the first year of his administration, posing a tough challenge for him.

A survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) on March 4-7 showed that joblessness among adult Filipinos, rose to 27.2 percent, up from 23.5 percent in November 2010 or barely four months ago.

This means that an estimated 11.3 million, split nearly evenly among those who resigned or were retrenched, plus an increase in first-time jobseekers, are out of work from just 9.9 million in November, 2010.

The survey prompted some critics to say that this is indicative of the President’s failure to move the country’s economy forward.

According to the SWS, unemployment has continued to rise since May 2005, falling below 20 percent only three times, the last was in September 2010 when it stood at 18.9 percent.

The latest rate of 27.2 percent, the SWS said, is similar to the 27.1 percent recorded in March 2010. Unemployment rose to as high as 34.2 percent in February 2009.

A respected columnist in a major Manila daily said that one likely reason for the worsening unemployment problem could be the “swift dissipation of confidence” in the leadership of President Aquino.

The columnist said that the problem could be the result of a pullback or lack of new investments in the country. This is a bad sign since there has been no major financial crisis such as one that shook the world in l997 or the global fear of terrorism after the September 11 attacks, the columnist said.

According to the columnist, the administration’s huge dole-out scheme, the conditional cash transfer program with a staggering 22 billion pesos (505.7 million U.S. dollars) budget this year, obviously failed to shore up business confidence in the local economy.

University of the Philippines economist Raul V. Fabella also warned that the unemployment could rise in the months ahead due to global developments.

Fabella noted that the SWS survey was taken before the current school year ends, thus the rate could be higher in the next review.

“It depends on whether the new graduates decide to go on vacation or look for jobs… if the job market is very soft, chances are they will go [back to] school if they can’t find jobs, “ Fabella said.

Malacañang, (the presidential palace) however, has branded as “statiscally insignificant” the latest SWS survey on unemployment, insinuating that it departed from the official National Statistics Office (NSO) formula that shows a far less number of jobless Filipinos.

Deputy Presidential Spokesman Abigail Valte said the methodology used by SWS in the survey was different from that used by the NSO on the country’s labor market which explains the different results produced.

“We studied the results of the SWS survey and we compared it to the NSO survey on the labor force and if we observe, if we’re just going to read and study it carefully, the SWS used a different methodology in its survey,” Valte said in a press briefing.

Valte added that the SWS survey firm no less admitted that its findings have a 3 percent margin of error which indicates that the figures yielded by the study are “statistically insignificant.”

Valte, nonetheless, said that regardless of the numbers, the administration will continue to work hard toward the creation of more jobs for those who are seeking them.

Akbayan party-list Representative Walden Bello, on the other hand, scored the government’s overseas workers program for having contributed to the unemployment problem.

Bello said that the impact of disasters occurring in other parts of the world, from Libya to Japan, “has perhaps been communicated more drastically to the Philippines than to other countries.”

“Whether it is the tragic trilogy of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear fallout in Japan or the civil war in Libya, external crises are swiftly transformed into internal crises for our country, as thousands of families are pushed into poverty and economic hardship when their breadwinners are dislocated and repatriated to the Philippines, where jobs offering decent wages are scarce,” Bello said. –ALITO L. MALINAOXINHUA NEWS AGENCY, Manila Times

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