The unemployment rate in the country reached a new record-high of 34.2 percent or an estimated 14 million Filipinos, according to the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey results.
A nationwide survey fielded over Feb. 20-23 among 1,200 respondents, found out that unemployment among adults has increased from 27.9 percent (11 million Filipinos) in the previous quarter to 34.2 percent at present.
Malacañang immediately disputed the results of the SWS survey on higher unemployment rate while casting doubt on its polling methods.
Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said the SWS survey was more of a perception rather than reality.
Remonde said the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) found that the latest survey from SWS is “not as accurate” as its own “labor force survey.”
“According to the DoLE, the labor force survey uses the internationally accepted standards. It has a very much wider universe and it is really based more on reality rather than perception,” he said in a news briefing.
Still, Remonde said government will take the SWS findings, whether accurate or not, into consideration to guide the government in providing more job opportunities for Filipinos.
The SWS survey found that of those unemployed, 13 percent voluntarily left their old job, while 12 percent were retrenched, consisting of nine percent who were laid off and three percent whose previous contracts were not renewed.
Meanwhile, six percent never worked before the time of the survey.
The independent pollster said SWS surveys on unemployment have been recorded at 20 percent and above since May, 2005, except for December, 2007 when it was at 17.5 percent.
SWS data since 1993 showed that unemployment was below 15 percent until March, 2004, and then ranged from 16.5 percent to 19 percent from August, 2004 to March, 2005.
“Over the past four quarters, adult unemployment is dominated by those who voluntarily left their old work, and those who were retrenched – either by getting laid off or by not having their contracts renewed,” SWS said.
The survey group explained that data on unemployment refers to the population of adults in the labor force.
“This is because respondents in the standard SWS surveys are those at least 18 years old. The 1993-2008 figures are consistently based on the traditional definition of unemployment as not working and at the same time looking for work. Those not working but not looking for work are excluded from the labor force; these are housewives, retired, disabled, students, etc.,” SWS explained.
It further cited that the official lower boundary of the labor force has always been 15 years of age.
It said that formerly, the “official definition” of unemployment was not working and looking for work.
However, SWS noted that from April, 2005 onward, the new official definition has included the “concept of availability for work; it subtracts those not available for work, even though looking for work, and adds those available for work but not seeking work for the following reasons: tired/believe no work is available, awaiting results of a job application, temporarily ill/disabled, bad weather, and waiting for rehire/job recall.”
It said that if the “official definition” is applied, the unemployment rate among adults 18 years old and above is 25.9 percent in the SWS February, 2009 survey.
“It is lower than when computed using the traditional definition because the correction for those looking for work but ‘not truly available’ is much larger than the correction for those ‘actually available’ though not looking for work at the moment,” SWS said.
This refers to the news item titled, “Gov’t searching for more overseas jobs.” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 01/25/ 09)
The Philippine government is raising false hopes with its repeated assurances that jobless Filipinos can find job openings in Australia and New Zealand; that these countries are “relatively insulated from the financial turmoil.”
The truth is Prime Minister John Key has said that New Zealand sees no economic growth and higher unemployment this year because of the impact of the global financial crisis. Meanwhile, the Finance Sector Union reported that between 5,000 and 20,000 jobs have been lost in Australia. The giant US construction equipment maker, Caterpillar, which has operations in Australia, is cutting 20,000 jobs worldwide.
Furthermore, the new “90 Day Bill” or “fire-at-will” bill comes as another threat to job security for Filipinos and other migrant workers in New Zealand. Under the 90 Day Bill, employers who are employing fewer than 20 people would have the right to sack workers in their first 90 days without the need to give any reason for such a decision. Clearly, the 90 Day Bill is New Zealand’s version of the “six-month labor contractualization” in the Philippines, a policy that deprives thousands of Filipinos of job security and forces them to seek jobs abroad at the cost of leaving their loved ones behind.
The Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government continues to ignore the challenge to fulfill the state’s obligation to generate and secure jobs at home. This challenge was issued by migrant workers during the Global Forum on Migration and Development. Last December, Malacañang also issued Administrative Order 247 for the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration to “execute a paradigm shift by refocusing its functions from regulation to full-blast market development efforts, the exploration of frontier, fertile job markets for Filipino expatriate workers.”
No country is immune to the current wave of job losses, and Filipinos will find it harder to keep their jobs abroad. Therefore, the full-blast marketing of cheap Filipino labor is not the answer to the country’s chronic crisis. More than ever, securing jobs at home through genuine land reform and national industrialization must be pursued. AO 247 is a vain attempt of the Arroyo government to promote its labor export policy while completely disregarding the people’s clamor for urgent socio-economic reforms.
Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families certainly deserve a new government that will seriously address the roots of forced migration and the country’s chronic crisis. Someone who misused millions of public funds (including the hard-earned money of OFWs) to steal the presidency has no right to stay in power. Aside from corruption and human rights violations, the Arroyo administration’s perennial neglect of migrants’ rights and welfare gives us more reason to demand its ouster.
DENNIS MAGA, national coordinator, Migrante Aotearoa New Zealand, email@example.com