June 9, 2017

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) stressed that sustaining employment figures, while improving related services, is crucial to meeting the government’s key targets in the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022.

In particular, the decreasing unemployment rate must be sustained together with higher job creation to reduce unemployment to around 3 percent by 2022. Based on the April 2017 Labor Force Survey (LFS) of the Philippine Statistics Authority, an attached agency of the NEDA, the country’s unemployment rate went down to 5.7 percent from 6.1 percent in April 2016.

Likewise, underemployment rate, or the proportion of employed persons wanting additional work, reached its lowest in more than ten years at 16.1 percent in April 2017. This is lower by 962,000 workers, or 12.9 percent, compared with underemployed workers recorded in April 2016.

Meanwhile, employment in the agriculture sector increased by 1.2 percent, with net employment gains of 125,000 workers. Industry employment increased to 7.4 million, and manufacturing posted employment gains of 1.6 percent, equivalent to an additional 55,000 workers.

“Increased activity confirms the renewed positive outlook of exporting firms that had anticipated increases in the volume of export production,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia.

However, the services sector—which accounts for more than half of the country’s total employment—recorded a net employment loss of 557,000 workers.

“This loss could be an effect of the 2016 election spending fully tapering off. It is possible that recent changes in labor policies regarding contractual workers may have had an adverse effect on firms’ hiring decisions,” said Pernia.

He added that the government should innovate employment opportunities by developing low-cost, labor-intensive but efficient methods for meeting current infrastructure needs and essential health and education services.

“Close coordination between sectors should also be in place for easier skills-matching. We can further enhance current programs like the Government Internship Program (GIP) and JobStart Philippines to help workers make informed career decisions and acquire skills necessary in today’s competitive environment,” Pernia said.

A trend also worth noting is the decline in labor force participation of women to 46.2 percent from 48.9 percent last year. This presents a challenge in meeting the PDP target to increase labor force participation of women to 51.3 percent by 2022.

To reverse this trend, NEDA notes that the government needs to work on the full implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law, on improving access and affordability of child care services, and on crafting policies that promote work-life balance,which is among the aspirations of Filipinos, according to a national survey for AmBisyon Natin2040, the country’s long-term vision.