By Chino S. Leyco
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said that the agriculture sector should be the focus of the government to lower the unemployment rate in the country, which remained steady in January this year.
According to NEDA, the implementation of well-thought-out and sustainable policies is needed to improve employment growth in the agriculture sector and overall employment in the country.
Based on the January 2019 round of the Labor Force Survey (LFS) of the Philippine Statistics Authority, the country’s registered total unemployment rate was at 5.2 percent, while the underemployment rate was at 15.6 percent.
Employment rate, meanwhile, was at 41.4 million, lower by 0.9 percent year-on-year.
This was mainly due to the 1.7 million employment loss in the agriculture sector, which overshadowed the combined 1.3 million additional employment in industry and services sectors.
“The prevalence of low-productivity jobs in the agriculture sector remains a challenge. Sustainable solutions such as shifting rice farmers to high-value crops, promoting crop diversification, accelerating development of local infrastructure, and training for farmers on technological advances are critical to raising productivity in agriculture,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said.
The continued decline in agricultural employment is also largely attributed to rising cost of inputs amidst low profit, limited access to credit, poor infrastructure, and vulnerability to environmental risks.
“The government must implement concrete and urgent interventions following the enactment of Republic Act 11203, or the Rice Industry Modernization Act, particularly for those stakeholders that will be displaced,” the Cabinet official added.
On the other hand, employment rate improved to 94.8 percent in January 2019 from 94.7 percent a year ago, while unemployment rate was 5.2 percent from 5.3 percent, the lowest unemployment rate recorded since 2009.
Also, underemployment rate – the proportion of those who are already employed but still wanting more work – significantly dropped to 15.6 percent in January 2019 from year-ago’s 18 percent. This is the lowest underemployment rate recorded for all surveys conducted in the January rounds since 2009.
“The overall improvements in the proportion of remunerative work, and full-time employment, as well as the decline in underemployment and vulnerable employment, indicate that the quality of work in the country is continuously progressing,” Pernia said.
He added that in order to further improve labor market outcomes and meet the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) employment targets, the government should remain committed to providing policies and programs that are conducive to creating more and better employment. These include reducing the cost of doing business as well as more aggressive reductions in foreign investment restrictions.
The LFS is a nationwide quarterly survey of households to gather data on the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the population, and provide statistics on trends of employment, unemployment, and underemployment in the country.