Philippine unemployment rate

Philippines mutes rise of unpaid workers, highlights rosy jobs figures

Ralf Rivas

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Philippines mutes rise of unpaid workers, highlights rosy jobs figures


The Philippines generates 3.3 million more jobs over a yearlong period, but 1.4 million of these new jobs are, by definition, 'unpaid work'

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government’s economic team welcomed what they called the “recovery” of the country’s labor market on Tuesday, April 11, as unemployment continued its downtrend. But a closer look at the figures shows that a bulk of the new jobs generated were unpaid work. 

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) on Tuesday reported that some 3.3 million jobs were added in the 12 months to February 2023, bringing the total number of employed Filipinos to 48.8 million.

The unemployment rate decreased from 6.4% in February 2022 to 4.8% in February 2023.

“The most recent data on the country’s workforce suggests that the Philippine labor market is steadily recovering. The lifting of various restrictions that previously impeded employment opportunities has resulted in an increase in job prospects for Filipino workers,” said National Economic and Development Authority Secretary Arsenio Balisacan. 

However, data from the PSA also showed that almost 1.4 million or 41% of these new jobs are those held by people who reported that they have work in family businesses but are unpaid.

The PSA defines an unpaid family worker as someone who works without pay on one’s own family-operated farm or business by another member living in the same household. The room and board and any cash allowance given as incentives are not counted as compensation for these family workers.

The chart below shows that of the 3.3 million jobs added in the 12 months to February 2023, almost 1.4 million are considered unpaid work.

There were over 4.88 million unpaid workers as of February, outnumbering the 4.59 million workers in the government or government corporations.

The number of wage and salary workers went up only 6.5% year-on-year to 29.7 million, equivalent to 1.8 million new workers of this classification.

Self-employed individuals remained at 13.2 million. They include people who work purely on commission basis and may not have regular working hours.

Government propaganda?

While the PSA has released these figures in full, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s economic team merely highlighted the increase in employment without elaborating on the quality of jobs.

Sought for comment, Ibon Foundation executive director Sonny Africa expressed concern, noting that the economic managers are opting to “use the labor force survey results for propaganda rather than to inform the public about the true state of the economy and to guide policy-making."

“Unpaid work rising is the statistical expression of people struggling to be productive and earn amid an economy whose agricultural and industrial foundations are unable to create enough high-quality work. Most of these are in agriculture and retail trade – informal economic activities with low barriers to entry but also very low and erratic earnings,” Africa said.

Other trends

The labor force survey also showed that workers in elementary occupations increased by 12%. These are workers involved in cleaning, washing cars and windows, or any “routine tasks which may require the use of handheld tools and considerable physical effort.” These jobs, in general, are low-paying jobs. There are currently 14.9 million Filipinos in this category.

Clerical support workers also saw a double-digit jump of 12% to 3.4 million. Tasks performed by clerical support workers include stenography, typing, secretarial duties, and record-keeping.

There were also more managers in February 2023, increasing 12% to 2.1 million. 

Armed forces occupations registered the highest jump year-on-year, posting a 78% increase to 243,985. –

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Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.