Over a quarter unemployed

Hunger also higher among affected families — SWS


OVER A QUARTER of the adult labor force are unemployed and hunger as a consequence is higher among their families, a new Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed.

The results, made exclusive to BusinessWorld, point to some 11 million Filipinos — 27.9% of the work force — as jobless as of December. While better than September’s 30.9%, the SWS said unemployment basically remained above 20% since May 2005.

The independent survey research institution’s tally compares with the official unemployment rate of 6.8% as of October — equivalent to 2.53 million Filipinos — based on the National Statistics Office’s (NSO) quarterly Labor Force survey.

The SWS uses the traditional definition of unemployment — those not working and at the same time looking for work — and classes adults as those at least 18 years old.

The government, on the other hand, includes those 15 years old onward and in April 2005 dropped the traditional definition in favor of the “availability of work” concept.

This means the NSO’s count excludes those without work but are not currently available despite wanting to work, and adds those without jobs, are available, but are not seeking work due to either tiredness/belief that no work is available; awaiting results of a job application; temporary illness/disability; bad weather; or waiting for rehire/recall.

Using the official definition, the SWS said its unemployment figure for adults 18 years old and above would be 22.3%.

“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,” it said.

The SWS also tied joblessness to hunger, saying “Unemployment raises the vulnerability of families…”.

It said 31.4% among families of the unemployed experienced “total hunger” or involuntary hunger at least once in the past three months, compared to 29.2% among families of private employees, 19.7% among families of the self-employed, and 12.7% among families of government employees.

“Severe hunger”, referring to those who experienced involuntary hunger “often” or “always” in the last three months, was 7.6% among the unemployed and private employees, 2.6% among the self-employed, and also 2.6% among government employees.

“Moderate hunger” — experiencing it “only once” or “a few times” in the last three months — was 23.8% among the unemployed, 21.6% among private employees, 17.1% among the self-employed, and 10.1% among government employees.

The fourth quarter SWS survey polled 1,500 adults in Metro Manila using face-to-face interviews. Sampling error margins used were plus or minus 2.5% for national percentages, plus or minus 6% for Metro Manila, the Visayas and Mindanao, and plus or minus 4% for the Balance of Luzon.

Asked to comment, University of the Philippines School of Labor and Industrial Relations professor Rene E. Ofreneo said the 27.9% unemployment rate was very high.

“It’s over one-fifth of the labor force … it’s really a cause for concern. The challenge to the government in light of the crisis is to provide jobs for those displaced but also for those entering the labor force every year, that’s about one million,” he said.

Employment opportunities should also be given to those who were jobless even before the crisis, he said, adding “It’s also important to provide quality jobs.”

He said data from the Employers Confederation of the Philippines showed the informal economy accounted for some 70% of the labor force comnpared to government data which point to just 45% being informally employed.

“Somewhere between that … let’s say 50%, are definitely in the informal economy,” he said.

Alvin P. Ang, University of Santo Tomas economist, said the results of the latest SWS survey were “alarming”.

“It’s most probably true because of the global economic situation. The government has very limited fiscal capacity. But I think it won’t be solved by the government alone, the private sector should help,” he said. — from a report by Bernardette S. Sto. Domingo