Unemployment and its causes
In a couple of months, tens of thousands of college graduates will, once more, join the workforce. The unemployment rate in the Philippines is projected to be 6.2 percent by the end of this quarter. From 1994 to 2015 the average unemployment rate has been 8.78 percent, way higher than our neighbors in the Asia Pacific region. In Malaysia, the average unemployment rate is 3.4 percent; in Thailand, 2.3 percent; in Singapore, 3.4 percent; in Vietnam, 5.6 percent, China, 3.9 percent; and Taiwan, 4.3 percent. Only Indonesia has an unemployment rate close to ours, that is, 8.9 percent.
The Philippine Institute for Development Studies said that in the Philippines, unemployment is a time bomb. Between 2005 and 2030, the labor force will increase from 32 million to about 52 million.
Yet it is befuddling why, in some sectors, there are many available jobs, but few qualify to fill up the vacancies. In the food sector, for instance, there is a dearth of workers with skills in cooking, food preservation, etc. Generally, companies have difficulty searching for accountants, bookkeepers, competent drivers, among others. In the medical sector while there is a glut of nurses, there has been a shortage of CT scan operators, cardio technicians, occupational therapists, respiratory therapists, etc.
Studies reveal that 22 percent of the unemployed have attended college while 19 percent have graduated from college. What does this indicate? That there is a serious disconnect between what schools teach and the demand of the jobs market. Students are not acquiring the skills they need to fill up available jobs when they graduate. Schools still offer, and students still enroll in, traditional courses without so much as examining the demand of industries.
The quality of graduates has also steadily declined such that professions requiring qualifying examinations such as medicine, accountancy, library science, and others suffer high failing rates. In nursing, for example, the passing rate in 1998 was 55.8 percent. In 2006, it went down to 45 percent and in 2010, it was a low of 39 percent. Thus, those who desperately need jobs but do not qualify in their desired professions settle for work as domestic helpers or nannies and blue-collar workers, either here or abroad. Still, there is a greater number of the unemployed who are unable to take on available jobs because they are not connected with what they learned.
However, more than the disconnect between education and the need of industries, the real cause of massive unemployment in the Philippines can be blamed on government. It has failed to create the needed climate to attract investors and, on its own, to create jobs. Our 29-year-old Constitution had long needed revisions to make the country more competitive amidst globalization yet, President Benigno S. Aquino III has consistently refused to allow any change to it, ignoring calls to lift its too restrictive provisions. If the President did not want to touch his mother’s Constitution, the very least he could have done in his term was to create as many jobs as possible to reduce the growing unemployment. The construction of infrastructure like the north rail train system, a mass public transport system, an improved MRT, more irrigation systems, and more farm to market roads, among a host of others, would have spurred opportunities to make a living. At the same time, it would have created jobs in the process.
The great American President who won a record four presidential elections, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, led the United States during a time of worldwide depression and total war. In his first 100 days in office, Roosevelt spearheaded unprecedented major legislations and issued numerous executive orders that instituted the New Deal. This involved a variety of programs designed to produce government jobs for the unemployed. The federal government played a big role in the US economy, allowing its people to survive the great depression and rise to make a great nation.
Then again, not only President Aquino should take the heat. We are where we are for the collective failure of our leaders to focus on real progress more than their political and self-seeking goals. We can continue asking ourselves every election period, will we produce this time a leader who will aim to attain even half as much as what President Roosevelt had done to the American economy? If you ask the former Chief Justice, Reynato S. Puno, he will tell you that elections will change nothing unless we change our political structure to one of federal-parliamentary.