Latest survey highlights growing jobs problem

Published November 16, 2018, 9:55 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

The Social Weather Stations (SWS) quarterly survey for July-August-September this year showed there were an estimated 9.8 million Filipinos without employment. Of this figure, 4.1 million had been retrenched, 3.7 million had

resigned from their old jobs, and the rest were looking for their first jobs.

In the previous quarterly survey for April-May-June, the  number  of jobless Filipinos had been placed at 8.6 million. This means that in the three-month interval between the two surveys, the number of jobless Filipinos had increased by 1.2 million.

Commenting on the survey results, presidential spoksman Salvador Panelo could only say that the government is continually looking for ways to improve the employment situation. The government is committed to promote a business-friendly environment to attract more job-generating investments in the country, he said, citing the President’s recent signing of RA 11032, the Ease of Doing Business Act, to reduce the processing time for government agencies to grant needed business permits.

“We are likewise developing our human resources,” he said, citing the work of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in training the labor force in skills needed by Philippine business and industry.

These are positive efforts to improve the general business climate in the country, but in the absence of specific business programs and projects, they are not likely to improve the employment figures anytime soon.  In contrast, the United States, in the last year of the Obama administration, launched a program that included tax cuts to help small business grow and thus hire more people.

The Philippine  government has a program it calls “Tax Reform for Attracting Better and High-Quality Opportunities” or TRABAHO for short, projecting it as a move to provide more jobs basically through lower corporate taxes. But it also calls for the removal of tax and other incentives used to attract foreign enterprises to our economic zones in the past. Instead of providing  more jobs, it is more likely to do the opposite, as many foreign enterprises are poised to close  down their Philippine operations, thus ending the employment of those they had  hired.

We are fortunate to have so many Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who have been able to find work abroad. We have today over 10 million OFWs, according to the Commission on Overseas Filipinos, with another 2 million more  undocumented. If not for the work available in these other countries today, our unemployment figures would be more than double the recent findings of  SWS.

The  many infrastructure projects of the government are bound to improve the employment situation for construction workers.  But along with the general economic development program of the government, it might want to encourage, through tax and other incentives,  the  establishment and growth of enterprises focused on providing jobs.

The US had such a program under President Obama. France under new President Emmanuel Macron also launched one.  If these First World countries saw the need for job programs for their workers,  the more reason a Third World country like ours should have one.