By FORMER SENATOR JOEY D. LINA
It’s that time of year when fresh college graduates or even some senior high school graduates have to confront the realities beyond the academic world as they become active jobseekers. But they still face harsh statistics: Only 35 to 40 percent of them will land a job of any kind, with barely 10 percent starting the career they studied for. The rest will join the ranks of the unemployed.
The Philippine Statistics Authority has estimated the average unemployment rate in January, 2019, at 5.2 percent, with highest unemployment in Metro Manila (6.4%), ARMM (6.3%), and Calabarzon (6.1%). “Of the total unemployed, the age group 15 to 24 years comprised 43.7 percent, while the age group 25 to 34, 30.6 percent. By educational attainment, 20.9 percent
of the unemployed were college graduates, 8.2 percent were college undergraduates, and 28.2 percent have completed junior high school,” the PSA said.
Ideally, graduation should lead to employment. But with a tight job market at a time when more graduates join the ranks of active jobseekers, finding gainful employment would not be easy. Still, fresh graduates who aggressively seek work have better chances of getting jobs in the informal sector or abroad where low-skilled work could be available.
In the formal sector or corporate world, those who finished among the top 10 percent of the graduating class are more likely to get jobs quickly. So are graduates of courses in high demand,
as many employers seek them out even before graduation.
While there was a time when graduates of the country’s top schools like UP and Ateneo were top choices of employers for job openings, the situation has changed as more employers now prefer alumni of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) primarily due to the attitude factor.
“Why have employers warmed up to PUP graduates? They have the drive to succeed and are very hardworking.
They have reasonable demands and they don’t usually display an attitude of self-entitlement. They also tend to stay longer in a company and they don’t leave at the slightest difficulty,” according to Jobstreet.comPhilippines country manager Philip Gioca who cited a survey that also listed graduates of the University of Santo Tomas as second top choice of employers.
But other average graduates from average schools are destined to fight it out in a battle for survival of the fittest. And their employment chances face many hindrances that include oversupply
of graduates in certain fields. Another hindrance is the continued mismatch between in-demand jobs and corresponding skills required of graduates. Even those seeking ideal jobs abroad realize they have not acquired sufficient skills suited for the global economy.
“Employers want students to be trained according to the needs of the workplace and want to do away with subjects that are irrelevant to the needs of the working world. Academics
agree that some changes are needed but emphasize these changes must balance the demands from industry against the needs of civil society and social development,” according to a UNESCO Graduate Employability in Asia report.
A study of the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP) showed other hindrances include lack of critical thinking, initiative, and effective communication skills. PMAP said four out of ten graduates don’t get hired due to deficiencies in these “soft competencies.” Another study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said young people are not getting employed because of “lack of experience, skills, contacts, awareness of job availability, and means to travel to work.”
And looming ahead are more challenges that could make job-hunting tougher. According to the ADB, industry is rapidly changing as over 48 percent of job functions are now at risk for automation within the next few years, thereby potentially expanding the ranks of those who could find themselves jobless.
But amid these challenges, it still is best to get a college degree, if only to be sure that one doesn’t suffer extreme hunger. A 2018 SWS survey showed a mere 2.7 percent of households headed by college graduates “experienced cases of moderate hunger, and none was severe.”
For households with no college graduates, the difference was glaring as shown in the SWS survey: “Hunger percentage was 12.0 among families of high school graduates who did not finish college, 13.8 among those of elementary graduates who did not finish high school, and 21.1 among those who did not finish elementary. The severe hunger percentages among the above groups were 2.7, 3.0, and 4.0 respectively.”
There is urgent need to address transit’the unemployment woes of average graduates that comprise the bulk of each year’s graduating class. To be indifferent to the plight of these graduates would be to put to waste all the years of hard work and sacrifice in school.
Leaders in government and the private sector need to exert more efforts to harness the knowledge and skills the average citizen can contribute toward nation-building. Empowering average Filipinos with jobs will certainly boost the economy. Badly needed is an honest-to-goodness economic strategy to develop our agricultural areas, expand our manufacturing base, and further shore up our services sector.
With more jobs and livelihood opportunities created, more average Filipinos can have an equal opportunity to work and contribute productively towards nation-building.
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