BY CAI ORDINARIO, Businessmirror, 7 Dec 2021
OVER two million women rejoined the labor force in October but not all of them may have found decent jobs, according to the latest data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), which reported higher underemployment on Tuesday.
According to PSA, 3.5 million Filipinos were unemployed while 7.04 million were underemployed in October. The country’s unemployment rate reached 7.4 percent while underemployment was at 16.1 percent. (Story here: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2021/12/07/3-5-million-jobless-in-oct-as-unemployment-improves-by-7-5/)
Former Labor Undersecretary Rene E. Ofreneo said with the increase in underemployment, this only means a lot of Filipinos are eager to work, including millions of women. The PSA said some 2.239 million women rejoined the labor force in October alone.
“This means people, including the new labor entrants, are raring to go back to work or to get employed—except that good, quality jobs are not that many,” Ofreneo told BusinessMirror via email.
“Yes, I see some connection because many jobs taken by a large number of women workers are in the informal sector where work is precarious,” he added.
Based on PSA data obtained by BusinessMirror, around 2.28 million women are underemployed as of October—or an increase of 466,000 women compared to October 2020.
The data also showed some 1.556 million women are considered engaged in visible underemployment while another 723,000 were considered part of the invisibly underemployed.
The PSA said people who are visibly underemployed are those working for less than 40 hours during the reference period and want additional hours of work.
Former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Emmanuel F. Esguerra earlier explained that invisibly underemployed Filipinos are those working full-time, around 40 hours per week, but were still looking for additional work or additional hours of working.
The visibly underemployed women increased by 366,000 from 1.19 million in October 2020. The trend was the same with those who were invisibly underemployed, which increased 99,000 from 624,000 in October 2020.
“With the advent of the Christmas season, more jobs are likely to be created. Election spending on campaigners and trollers also (will) likely have a positive impact on job creation,” Ofreneo said.
“The problem is once again: are these good, quality and sustainable jobs? The challenge to the government is to strengthen industrial and agricultural development,” he stressed.
But for economists like De La Salle University’s Maria Ella Oplas, the underemployment data for women may be a good thing, especially if this means more of them are finding their way to the gig economy.
Oplas said one reason many women may have found their way back to the workforce is through home-based or online jobs that allow them to contribute to the household income while staying at home.
This, she said, could explain working for less than 40 hours a week. Based on the PSA data, the average working hours in October was only 39.7 hours, lower than the 40.8 hour average in October 2020 and 41.8 hour average in July 2021.
The PSA told BusinessMirror that mean hours worked decreased in October because Filipinos who worked less than 40 hours accounted for 21.5 percent of the labor force. This reflected the 22.6-percent increase in the underemployed.
“It does not necessarily speak of the quality of available jobs in the economy. But it represents the hunger of women to supplement household income while at the same time child caring,” Oplas said. “It represents women’s economic empowerment working during the pandemic.”
With shorter hours, women have the option to take on even more part-time employment, giving them higher incomes which boost household incomes.
This means even younger women like students can also contribute to the household income. Oplas noted students who are doing art commissioning part-time, but allowed them to earn during the pandemic.
The gig economy, due to the flexibility it offers workers, will become even more attractive to Filipinos in the near- or mid-term future. Oplas said the gig economy is the future and will only be attractive with the convenience of making online transactions.
“Actually, it’s not necessarily lower salary because they have the freedom to accumulate a number of ‘gigs’ at the same time. If that is the point, there is a possibility that they are actually going to earn more,” Oplas said. “It’s more of the flexibility and lesser barriers to entry that makes the gig economy enticing.”
Not the last pandemic
Changing the mindset of Filipinos from pandemic to endemic is crucial, according to the President’s economic managers. This, they said, is the reason for the need to create a pandemic flexibility bill.
In the joint statement, the economic team said this will complement the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act. Moreover, a “pandemic playbook” will cull all the lessons we have learned over nearly two years of coping with Covid-19.
“The country’s economic performance has exceeded expectations in 2021. The road ahead remains challenging, but we assure the Filipino people that we have all the elements in place to recover quickly and strongly from the pandemic and grow rapidly in the years to come.
“To further accelerate our recovery, the economic development cluster has approved a 10-point agenda to shift the country from a pandemic to endemic paradigm,” the statement said.
The 10-point policy agenda covers these areas: 1) metrics; 2) vaccination; 3) healthcare capacity; 4) economy and mobility; 5) schooling; 6) domestic travel; 7) international travel; 8) digital transformation; 9) pandemic flexibility bill; and 10) medium-term preparation for pandemic resilience.