Source: Manila Bulletin, 27 December 2011

Rosy employment picture in 2012

MANILA, Philippines — Employers expect better employment picture in 2012 on back of the implementation of some of the huge projects under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) program, the flagship infrastructure development program of the Aquino government.

Edgardo B. Lacson, president of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), said there would be additional jobs from the PPP projects starting in the first quarter of 2012.

Lacson said that government is accelerating the first PPP projects like the Daang Hari road. If the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union expressway pushes through, this would also provide a big stimulus. The government is set to bid out 16 PPP projects next year.

“With the PPP, we can overcome the seasonality of jobs,” he said.

He added that recovery of lost jobs would come from the infrastructure sector, which has a big multiplier effect.

“Unemployment would not be worse in 2012,” he said.

Unemployment in the country hit a four-year low of 6.4 percent in October.

“I hope it can be sustained. The challenge is how to sustain it. I hope it is not seasonal because business would really gear up during high demand season like the Christmas season,” he said.

Lacson, however, lamented the fact that even as the business sector is creating jobs, the government has kept on issuing laws that restrict employment generation.

For instance, he cited a proposal criminalizing Labor Code violation with imprisonment of 2 to 4 years.

He also noted that the Philippines is the only country in the world that sets minimum wage rate.

“We are shooting ourselves in the foot,” he said as he urged for the abolition of mandatory wage increase, which he said, benefited only two million out of 41 million employed Filipinos.

Aside from the small number of beneficiaries to mandated wage hikes, it also causes wage distortion, he said.

ECOP has been pushing for 2-tiered wage increase, with a floor base. It is also batting for a free-market labor.

As of October this year, Economic Planning Secretary Cayetano Paderanga said 2.1 million jobs were created, more than double the one million put into work in the previous 12 months.

“Although labor entrants also increased to 1.9 million, an equally stronger employment generation resulted in a lower unemployment rate of 6.4 percent compared with the 7.1 percent unemployment rate in the same month of last year,” Cayetano said.

The government estimates the country’s labor force at 41.2 million.

According to the National Statistics Office (NSO), the National Capital Region (NCR) posted the highest unemployment rate at 10.4 percent while the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) posted the lowest at 2.3 percent. There were significantly more males (62.6 percent) than females (37.4 percent) among the unemployed and almost 50 percent of jobless Filipinos were reported to be quite young, from 15 to 24 years old.

In terms of education, 32.9 percent of those unemployed were high school graduates, 22.6 percent were college undergraduates, while 20 percent were college graduates.

The employment rate or the proportion of employed persons to total labor force in October 2011 was estimated at 93.6 percent from 92.9 percent in October last year.

Limited employment opportunities have forced one in 10 Filipinos to seek work abroad. A quarter of the population lives on a dollar a day or less, according to official data. (BCM)