Decent jobs are govt’s ‘single biggest challenge’

Providing decent work for the country's labor pool has remained a major 'challenge' for the government

JOBS. Creating decent work for Filipinos is single biggest challenge for government, says Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan. Photo by AFP

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Providing decent work for the country’s labor pool has remained a major “challenge” for the government.

Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan admitted this on October 1 at a gathering of officials from government, non-government organizations (NGO), workers groups, and employers.

“What is more disturbing obviously is the underemployment rate that rose to 22.7% in July 2012 from 19% in July last year. That to me says a lot about the quality of jobs that we are creating in this country,” Balisacan said.

“It is the single most important challenge that we are faced as a nation,” he stressed.  

The Cabinet member said this “challenge” persisted even while the Philippine economy is growing.

“While the economy is growing, we seem to be less successful in creating quality jobs that particularly the poor will need and jobs that would match the skills of the poor,” Balisacan said.

Decent jobs refer to those that

  •     are productive
  •     provide fair income, security, social protection for families
  •     provide better prospects for personal development and social integration
  •     provide freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives
  •     provide equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men

Not a numbers game

Balisacan said the availability of decent work has been an issue in the Philippines for the past 20 years. This has been the case since the economy has not been able to generate decent employment for all.

The NEDA Chief said, however, that the fight for more decent work in the Philippines is not a mere numbers game, adding that quality jobs is more important than quantity.

These are jobs, however, would require new investments in job-generating industries.

Infrastructure constraints is one of the major reasons why new investments are not forthcoming, Balisacan explained. Better infrastructure means lower costs of doing business, which in turn will make the country an attractive investment hub.

“You have to invest in electricity, you have to invest in good roads, airports, in good ports so that the costs of doing business will be reduced,” Balisacan said.

“It’s a long-term process, creating good, quality, decent work (cannot happen) overnight,” he shared.

Poverty reduction

International Labor Organization (ILO) Philippines Country Director Jeff Johnson said the goal of cutting unemployment in the country will eventually lead to poverty reduction.

But for that to happen, Johnson said the government must be able to create jobs in sectors that matter, particularly in agriculture where most of the poor Filipinos are.

VULNERABLE WORKERS. The chart shows that while the rate of vulnerable employment is on the decline, it remains above 40% of the Philippine labor force. The image was obtained from the presentation of ILO Philippines Country Director Jeff Johnson.

“The Philippines’ vulnerable employment level showed a slight decrease over time, which corresponds to the slight increase in the proportion of wage and salary workers. However, the proportion remains high, averaging to about 40%,” Johnson noted.

“With limited employment opportunities, insufficient earnings and high poverty rates, the bulk of the working population could not afford to be out of work and has no choice but to engage in some form of economic activity, no matter how little or inadequate,” Johnson stressed in his presentation.

He said this can be done through education and training. Johnson said the introduction of K-12 is a good move toward this direction.

Johnson added that the proposal to create unemployment insurance is also one of the measures which government can use to protect workers. –

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