"Opportunities are narrowing."
We may not have to wait for the release of the next official data of the Philippine Statistics Office on the employment situation in the Philippines to confirm the rising numbers of jobless people. The sight of shuttered fast-food restaurants and retail outlets, near-empty malls and deserted financial centers tells us the real story.
The latest unemployment rate for July released by the PSA stood at 10 percent, up from 5.4 percent in the same month in 2019 but lower than the record high of 17.7 percent in April this year, just two months into the severe enhanced community quarantine rules imposed by the government. The data means 4.6 million Filipinos who were 15 years old and above were unemployed, or up by 2.1 million compared to the same period a year ago and lower by 2.7 million from three months ago.
The number of unemployed Filipinos is not expected to improve anytime soon. Online hiring portal Jobstreet.com has noted that the number of jobseekers increased five-fold in recent months to as many as 300 to 400 per opening, as available positions and salary offers fell by nearly half amid the pandemic and quarantine restrictions that limited the capacity of many companies.
The trend clearly suggests that the number of job placements or opportunities as advertised is narrowing―a reflection of a contracting domestic economy. Jobstreet.com observed that while the number of jobseekers increased greatly in recent months, job postings on its site fell 50 percent during the lockdown period. The online job portal used to process at least 100,000 postings daily before COVID-19.
Jobstreet.com has noted that companies started posting new job opportunities in the last three months with the easing of the quarantine restrictions. But the employment outlook is far from rosy. Companies are offering 30-percent to 50-percent less than the salary they used to provide before the pandemic, citing operational survival as the primary reason. And many jobseekers agreed to the pay cut rather than not landing a job, at all.
Reducing the unemployment rate in the Philippines, of course, will depend on how fast we reopen the economy. It will also hinge on restoring the confidence of consumers quickly despite the presence of the coronavirus.