by Raynan F. Javil, Feb 24, 2017
THE NUMBER of jobless Filipinos hardly changed last year from 2015, according to a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey that bared a fourth-quarter reading that was the worst in two years.
Fourth-quarter optimism about job prospects for the succeeding 12 months, however, was at its peak since this particular survey began in 1998.
The Fourth Quarter 2016 Social Weather Survey — conducted Dec. 3-6 via face-to-face interviews with 1,500 adults nationwide and with sampling error margins of ±3% for national percentages — found adult joblessness at 25.1% or an estimated 11.2 million adults, 6.7 points more than the 18.4% (estimated 8.2 million adults) recorded in the third-quarter poll conducted in September 2016.
The fourth-quarter adult joblessness rate was the worst since December 2014’s 27%.
The first six months of the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who took office at noon of June 30 last year, bared a 21.75% average adult joblessness that was roughly steady from the first semester’s 22.8% average.
Yesterday’s report comes in the wake of the administration’s formal approval last Monday of the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 that aims to spur gross domestic product growth to an annual average of 7-8% in that period from the 6.2% average in the six years under the preceding government of former president Benigno S. C. Aquino III.
The Duterte administration believes such pace of economic expansion is needed to slash unemployment rate to 3-5% by 2022 — when the current government steps down — from 5.5% last year and achieve its bottom line of cutting the national poverty rate to 14% also by then from 21.6% in 2015.
The fourth quarter’s 25.1% brought 2016’s average to 22.3%, a mere 0.4 of a point above 2015’s 21.9%.
“SWS’ adult joblessness data refer to the population of adults… who have a job at present, plus those without a job at present and looking for a job…” the pollster said in its report.
The SWS fourth-quarter joblessness rate consisted of:
• 12.2% or an estimated 5.5 million adults who voluntarily left their jobs compared to September’s 8.0 % or an estimated 3.6 million adults;
• 8.7% or an estimated 3.9 million adults who lost their jobs due to economic circumstances beyond their control, edging up 1.3 points from the third quarter’s 7.4% or an estimated 3.3 million adults; and
• 4.3% or an estimated 1.9 million adults who were first-time job seekers, compared to the 3.1% or an estimated 1.4 million adults previously.
In terms of age groups, joblessness fell by 16.7 points in the 18- to 24-year-old bracket to the lowest in 12 years, but rose in the others: by 14.8 points among respondents aged 25-34 years, by 9.6 points in the 35- to 44-year-old group and by 5.7 points among respondents aged at least 45 years old.
The fourth-quarter survey put adult labor force participation rate at 72.1% or 44.8 million adults, hardly changed from the third quarter’s 72.0% or an estimated 44.7 million adults.
At the same time, the survey showed optimism about job prospects at a peak.
Optimism that there will be more jobs in the next 12 months hit 48% in December from September’s 44%, marking the best reading, so far, since at least September 2013, according to data made available in the SWS report.
Those who believed there will be less jobs hardly moved to 12% from 13%, logging the lowest also since at least September 2013; while those who believed there will be no change in job situation was flat from September’s 28%.
December readings lifted the net optimism on job availability score (percent more jobs minus percent fewer jobs) by six points to a record “very high” +37 in December from September’s “very high” +31.
The SWS classifies as “very high” a net optimism score of at least +30; +20 to +29 as “high”; +10 to +19, “fair”; +1 to +9, “mediocre”; -9 to zero, “low”; as well as -10 and below as “very low”.
“This is the highest net optimism on job availability score since SWS began surveying it in 1998,” the report read, noting that December’s reading “surpassed the previous record of +36 in November 2010.”
The SWS’ definition of “joblessness” differs from the government’s “unemployment” concept.
Among others, SWS respondents are at least 18 years old compared to the lower official boundary of 15 years of age used by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
In the SWS survey, persons with jobs are those currently working, including unpaid family members, while the official Labor Force Survey definition of employed covers all those who are at work, or have a job but not at work due to illness, injury, vacation or other reasons, as well as those who expect to report for work within two weeks from the date of the PSA enumerator’s visit.
SWS defines joblessness based on two traditional qualifications: without a job at present and are looking for a job. Those not working, without a job but not looking for one — such as housewives and students — are excluded.
Sought for comment, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin M. Andanar noted in a mobile phone message that the biggest increase in joblessness — 4.2% — was among those who resigned, while those who were retrenched went up by only 1.3%.
Mr. Andanar noted further that the biggest percentage (12.2%) of those who said they were jobless in December voluntarily left their jobs.
He added that the record-high net optimism about job prospects this year “means that people are confident with the future under the Duterte administration and that they believe that there will be more jobs available for them.”
Sought for comment, University of the Philippines School of Labor and Industrial Relations professor Rene E. Ofreneo said December’s rise in joblessness could be attributed to the tapering off of jobs related to the 2016 national elections.
“We’re coming from the election of 2016, so naturally… election-related jobs declined towards the end of last year,” Mr. Ofreneo explained in a mobile phone reply.
Mr. Ofreneo added that the “series of calamities” at the start of the fourth quarter — particularly the two storms that struck successively in October — could have contributed to the rise of joblessness, albeit the effect would have been “more regional.”
He also said the drop in joblessness among 18- to 24-year-old respondents was a “good sign,” noting it usually takes fresh graduates up to two years to land jobs. —