MANILA – Greater diversification of production and processing of by-products in agriculture, and closer coordination between academe and industry should be pursued to generate more decent, productive, and sustainable jobs for Filipinos, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). 

This following the report of the National Statistics Office that total Philippine employment declined to 37.82 million in April 2013 from 37.84 million employed in April 2012. 

The industry and services sectors generated 224,000 and 380,000 additional jobs, respectively, in April 2013. But employment in agriculture and agriculture-related activities registered a loss of 624,000 workers in the same period. 

“One of the main challenges of the country is the seasonality of agricultural employment. Therefore, greater diversification of agricultural production and further processing of by-products should be encouraged,” said NEDA Officer-in-Charge (OIC) and Deputy Director-General Emmanuel F. Esguerra. 

The Bureau of Agriculture Statistics (BAS) reported that farmers were hesitant to plant amid the impending El Nino phenomenon, while others were still recovering from the losses incurred from typhoons Pablo and Quinta during the fourth quarter of 2012. 

“Employment is bound to be adversely affected in times of natural disaster. Thus, it is also imperative for government to design a more effective disaster response system,” the NEDA official said. 

The BAS said that inadequate water supply and intense heat, aside from changes in cropping patterns, are expected to result in lower agriculture output for April to June 2013 

The country’s unemployment rate went up by 0.6 percentage points to 7.5 percent in April 2013 due to a lower level of employment amid a slightly higher labor force level. But the underemployment rate slightly improved in April 2013 to 19.2 percent, lower by 0.1 ppt compared to 19.3 percent in the same period last year. 

Majority of the unemployed were high school graduates (31.7%), college graduates (21.3%) and college undergraduates (14.6%). 

“There is a need to improve the employability of worker applicants, particularly those with secondary and tertiary education. A more effective partnership among firms or establishments, academe and the government will provide useful inputs to the curriculum design,” the NEDA official said. 

Almost half or 48.2 percent of the unemployed are aged 15-24 years old, where about 27.5 percent are male and 20.7 percent are female. 

“There should also be an aggressive promotion of skills training and apprenticeship programs to improve the quality of graduates, thereby lessening the uncertainty involved in hiring fresh graduates. The role of the government is crucial in reducing employment information or search costs,” said Esguerra. 

On the other hand, a 2.9 percent-growth year-on-year in the employment of wage and salary workers (619,000 individuals) with more remunerative and stable work was recorded in April 2013. Also, the number of full time employment (worked 40 hours or more) posted a double-digit growth from a year ago, increasing its share to 64.0 percent in the same period. 

“These figures, along with the underemployment rate, manifest an improvement in the quality of employment during the period,” said Esguerra. 

But he stressed that increasing the number of employers in the country is still critical in creating decent and productive jobs that the Filipino workforce needs.

“The country should continually entice domestic and foreign investors by reducing institutional and administrative impediments to doing business, and through the timely implementation and completion of infrastructure projects,” said Esguerra. 

He added that these priorities and programs are part of the strategy and action plan on employment creation being formulated in the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016 Midterm Update, which will be released before the year ends. 

Esguerra, who heads NEDA’s National Development Office for Planning and Policy, is currently OIC while Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and NEDA Director-General Arsenio M. Balisacan is on official business abroad.