Unemployment rate climbed to 6.1 percent of the labor force in April from 5.8 percent in January but improved from 6.4 percent a year ago, the government said Thursday.
Economic Planning Secretary Emmanuel Esguerra said this meant that 2.6 million Filipinos were jobless as of end-April, and many of them were youth. Another 7.3 million Filipinos were underemployed, he said.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Office showed that 39.9 million Filipinos were employed during the period, representing 93.9 percent of the labor force.
Esguerra, who is also the director-general of the National Economic and Development Authority, said the labor market was bolstered by election-related activities.
Neda said of the employed, more than three-quarters were permanently employed and over a fifth were short-term or seasonal workers.
“These employment numbers are a reflection of the country’s vibrant economy,” said Esguerra.
“If the labor market trends are maintained, the Philippine Development Plan target of 6.5 percent to 6.7 percent for unemployment rate in 2016 is likely to be achieved,” Esguerra said.
Esguerra, however, expressed alarm over the economic inactivity of the youth, or those in ages 15 to 24 years.
Unemployment rate among the youth stood at 14.6 percent, or more than twice the national average of 6.1 percent in April.
Data also showed that 23.8 percent of the total young working population were neither in school nor in the labor force, implying that 4.7 million young Filipinos were underutilized as their skills were not being honed by education, training or employment.
Meanwhile, underemployment, which refers to those who are working but still want more work, climbed to 18.4 percent in April 2016 from 17.8 percent a year ago. In absolute terms some 7.3 million Filipinos were underemployed, mostly from the agriculture and services sector.
Esguerra said to address the issue, the next administration should create conditions to produce more high-quality jobs, including easing the country’s foreign investment restrictions.
He said improving the business climate was key, given the need for resiliency and adaptability to changes in the labor market.
Esguerra said the country should also focus more on income security rather than job security by producing a better trained and agile workforce while exploring more flexible work contracts and unemployment insurance/savings schemes.
He said the closer cooperation between industry and educational institutions on curriculum upgrade was crucial to create better trained but more flexible workforce .
Esguerra said the access of farm workers to technology should be improved to help them shift to more suitable and high-value crops.
The same can be tapped to create crops that can survive adverse weather conditions such as La Niña, which may develop within the second half of 2016, he said.