The government’s Economic Resiliency Plan (ERP) should continue to prioritize emergency employment or livelihood creation and preservation, said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and NEDA Director General Ralph G. Recto on the heels of the release of the results of the January 2009 round of the Labor Force Survey (LFS). He added that effective safety nets for the already affected workers will be ensured and human resource development for the young labor force will be pursued. Recto also batted for the implementation of infrastructure projects that stress speed in job creation and improvement in the country’s competitiveness.
“To further help minimize the adverse impact of the crisis to the most vulnerable sectors of the labor force, we strongly propose the fast disbursement of the 2009 budget and regular monitoring and reporting of accomplishments of the Comprehensive Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program or CLEEP and the commitments of the private sector on employment creation," the NEDA chief said.
Recto also noted the government, business and labor sectors should "take the current crisis as an opportunity to implement concrete programs that will improve firm-level productivity and intensify trainings and scholarships for the young labor force”.
He also proposed the fast deployment of retrenched OFWs into other economies that are not severely affected by the crisis and the taking advantage of the provisions of the newly-signed Executive Orders (E.O.) 782 or "Instituting Measures to Assist Workers Affected by the Global Financial Crisis and Temporary Filling Up of Vacant Positions in the Government" and 783 or "Providing for Employment Interventions to Save and Create Jobs as part of the Economic Resiliency Plan" to tap temporary workers for specific tasks.
Meanwhile, amid the global financial crisis, the results of the LFS showed that the country’s labor market continued to post positive growth as employment grew by 1.7 percent. This resulted in an employment generation of 565,000 compared to the 148,000 that were generated in the previous year. The total number of employed persons increased to 34.3 million from 33.7 million in the same period last year.
In his memorandum to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Recto said that the growth in employment was led by the services sector with a 3.8-percent increase from last year’s level. According to him, the services sector had a total of 638,000 additional employment which came from the following: 300,000 from the wholesale and retail sectors; 140,000 from real estate, renting and business activities; 74,000 from education; 47,000 from public administration and defense, compulsory social security; 45,000 form health and social work; 21,000 from hotels and restaurants; 12,000 from other community, social and personal service activities; and 1,000 from those working in extra-territorial organizations and bodies.
The agriculture, fishery and forestry (AFF) sector posted a 0.4-percent growth contributing about 49,000 net employment. However, the industry sector contracted by 2.4 percent with a net employment loss of 121,000.
“The high demand in the production of agriculture, forestry and fish products and food manufactures buoyed the still positive growth in the AFF sector while the weak external demand in the industry sector led to its contraction,” Recto said.
He likewise said that bulk of the employed continued to come from the more remunerative wage and salaried class of workers, which grew by 2.8 percent. However this, he said, had a corresponding rise in the number of unpaid family workers, which grew by 2.5 percent as some workers helped their own families in farming and fishing, small-time manufacturing, trading and repair (e.g. of motorcycles) activities.
The underemployment rate also improved to 18.2 percent in January 2009 from 18.9 percent in January 2008. Recto said that this was the lowest January underemployment rate since 2006. The underemployed are those who are already working but still wanted more work.
The LFS results showed that most of the visibly underemployed who are working for less than 40 hours are in the agriculture sector with 58.1 percent, followed by the services and industry sectors with 30.5 percent and 11.3 percent, respectively.. Moreover, the unemployment rate for January hiked to 7.7 percent in January 2009 from 7.4 percent in January 2008. This figure, however, was lower than the January unemployment rates for 2006 - which registered 8.1 percent - and 2007, which posted an unemployment rate of 7.8 percent.
“The employment generated was not enough to compensate for the bigger number of labor entrants for the period and those who have been unemployed,” Recto said.
In his memorandum, he said that the country’s labor force grew by 2.0 percent, faster than the employment growth of 1.7 percent. “With an additional 745,000 entrants competing for employment, the unemployment level increased to 2.9 million from 2.7 million a year ago,” he added.