January 2010 Labor Force Survey: 6 Out Of 10 Created Jobs Low-Earning

Jobs growth masks millions in poor quality work

While government’s January labor force survey (LFS) reports an increase in the number of employed Filipinos by 5% from last year, it unfortunately also shows job-seekers crowding into the country’s lowest-earning sectors, as well as rising underemployment.

Research group IBON Foundation said that nearly 6 out of 10 of the 1.73 million-increase in jobs were in among the country’s poor quality and lowest-earning work.

The preliminary January 2010 LFS figures report a dramatic increase in employment from the year before to 35.99 million jobs in the country. The increase in wage and salary work is particularly striking with its share in total employment rising to 55.8% from 52.3% last year, with a 2.17 million increase to 20.08 million such jobs.

According to IBON, any work is more desirable than no work, thus the increases in jobs (in particular, in wage and salary work) are welcome. But it is also relevant to look at the quality of work to see how far these jobs can contribute to improving the welfare of Filipinos.

The top three job-generating sectors accounting for nearly a million jobs created were wholesale and retail trade (408,000 increase), domestic helpers (342,000) and construction (230,000). In 2009, the average daily basic pay in these sectors was just P258, P127 and P273 respectively, according to the latest LFS data available. These earnings are far below the average family living wage nationwide of some P840 already in 2008, according to the latest figures released by the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC).

The low earnings in these and other sectors could partly explain the large 864,000-increase in the number of underemployed in the country to 7.10 million. Underemployment at 19.7% of jobs means that nearly 1 out of 5 Filipinos are still looking for additional work, likely because they were not earning enough from the jobs they had. This is even as the number of supposedly full-time work has increased by 681,000 to 23.25 million, accounting for 64.6% or nearly 2 out of 3 jobs.

In January 2010, some 78% of the employed were found in sectors whose average daily basic pay for wage and salary workers was less than P300. These are agriculture (10.3 million at P142 per day), wholesale and retail trade (7.1 million at P258), manufacturing (3 million at P290), private households with employed persons (2.1 million at P127), construction (1.9 million at P273), fisheries (1.5 million at P172), hotels and restaurants (1.1 million at P262), other community, social and personal service activities (936,000 at P299), and mining and quarrying (180,000 at P247).

Despite the increase in employment, IBON said there are unfortunately still signs that the economy’s job generation is distorted and reflects its continuing backwardness. For instance there were nearly three times as many domestic helper jobs generated (342,000) as manufacturing and agriculture jobs combined (130,000). The increase in wholesale and retail trade employment (408,000) implies work for nearly half a million Filipinos; however, measured against the much less manufacturing and agricultural jobs created, this implies the nation becoming more of traders rather than producers.

IBON also stressed that with the current job situation, merely having a job is not enough to lift a family from poverty. The next administration should turn around the record-high unemployment and worst quality jobs under the nine-year Arroyo term and give priority to creating regular and productive jobs by strengthening the local economy, the research group said. (end)

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