The Marcos administration vowed on Wednesday to continue working for a better job quality for the country’s labor force and further reduce underemployment.

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said that the administration remains focused on improving the investment climate to attract businesses that generate quality employment.

Balisacan cited the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) survey for September 2023 showing a strong labor market.

In a memorandum for President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., Balisacan said that the country’s labor market remained strong in September 2023, with unemployment and underemployment rates further declining to 4.5 percent and 10.7 percent, respectively. 

“The government will continue to improve the country’s investment climate to attract businesses that generate quality employment. Executive Order No. 18, s. 2023, that created green lanes for strategic investments has been issued for this purpose,” Balisacan said in the memorandum through Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin.

“Accelerating infrastructure development, particularly in areas outside the NCR (AONCR), is likewise crucial to bringing in investments,” he said.

At the same time, Balisacan said that there is a need to facilitate digitalization and promote innovation, especially among micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to improve productivity, expand market access and diversify product offering that, in the end, creates more jobs even amid shocks. 

To address the declining labor force participation, especially among women, alternative work arrangements must be adopted, like part-time work or work-from-home may be considered to open up job opportunities for individuals who only want to work part-time, he added.

“As highlighted in Chapter 4 of the PDP (Philippine Development Plan) 2023-2028, there is a need to ensure that Filipinos are equipped with the necessary skills to be employed in quality jobs,” Balisacan said in his memo to the President.

“Hence, increasing the workforce’s employability by expanding training programs in terms of both reach and content remains a priority. In particular, enterprise-based training is highly encouraged to address the high youth unemployment rate.”

The PSA labor survey showed that the quality of employment is improving with more remunerative work, middle- and high-skilled occupations, and full-time employment observed during the survey period. 

Employment reached 47.7 million in September 2023, or 83,000 higher than the same period last year. The employment expansion in the services sector (+773,000) was tempered by losses in agriculture (- 457,000) and industry (-233,000). 

The socioeconomic planning chief added that implementing programs that will build a more resilient agriculture sector is important, as weather disturbances become more intense during El Niño, which is expected to worsen in the coming months until early 2024.

Balisacan emphasized the immediate implementation of the El Niño National Action Plan (NAP) is crucial to mitigating its impact, including potential employment losses in the sector.

As tourism recovers, employment increased in accommodation & food services (+608,000) and transportation & storage (+255,000). Administrative & support services (+535,000) also posted gains, with IT-BPO firms expanding outside the NCR.

Construction (+481,000) also increased as the government pursued its catch-up plans, including accelerating the Build, Better, More infrastructure program. 

Improvement in manufacturing PMI (Purchasing Manager’s Index) was marginal in September as external demand remained muted. Elevated input and borrowing costs, as well as adverse weather conditions, weighed down on wholesale & retail trade and agriculture sectors.

“Many of the jobs generated in September 2023 are in remunerative employment (+1.3 million), primarily in administrative and support services (+527,000), construction (+517,000), and accommodation & food service (+319,000),” the NEDA chief said, adding this increased the proportion of wage and salary workers in private establishments to 50.6 percent (from 48.1 percent in September 2022). 

Also, vulnerable employment declined by 1.4 million, largely from agriculture (-920,000) and wholesale & retail trade (-828,000), with full-time employment was also higher by 1.6 million compared to the previous year, while part-time employment fell by 1.4 million. 

Fewer unemployed individuals (-234,000) were recorded in September 2023 relative to the same period last year, resulting in a 4.5 percent unemployment rate, Balisacan said. | PND

Photo Courtesy of PCO