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Filipino workers slam Arroyo for its consistent failure to clip the jobs crisis

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A dismal failure! This is the verdict of workers belonging to the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) as they slammed the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) administration ahead of her State of the Nation Address (SONA) for its consistent failure to clip the jobs crisis.

Halfway through her term, the Arroyo administration generated only a little over 2 million jobs. This figure is way below the 4.5 million jobs that should have been generated had government keep up with its target. Comparing Labor Force Surveys in the past three years (April round) shows that government has consistently failed to meet its annual target of 1.5 million jobs: 688,000 in 2005; 478,000 in 2006; and, 1,007,000 in 2007.

Government has also botched its responsibility to promote quality and sustainable jobs. Computing the net job generation from April 2005 to April 2007 reveals that most of the jobs created were from services (61%), followed by agriculture (34%) and industry (5%). Despite the economic growth enjoyed by the country these past few years, employment in the industry remains lethargic. Only around 9,000 jobs were created in industry or a negligible 0.37% of total jobs generated. This reflects the continuing de-industrialization in the country. Meanwhile, those in the "Wholesale and Retail and Personal Households with Employed Persons" comprise half of the jobs in the services sector. Jobs in these sectors include sales assistants in malls, domestic helpers, drivers and other similar jobs.

Worst, jobs generated, for the most part, are seasonal in nature and largely contractual. From 2005 to 2007, only 56% of jobs generated are full time work (jobs that offer 40 hours or more per week) while a whooping 44% is part-time work (jobs that are less than 40 hours per week). In agriculture, jobs usually lasts 90 man-days that coincide with the crop production period while in the construction industry, employment is project-based with each job with an average of 10-man days.

Rather than face up to this reality, the GMA administration and its spin masters has opted to resort to statistical sleight of hand to project a rosy picture of employment in the country. To reduce the number of unemployed, government simply redefined what it means to be unemployed. In April 2005, the National Statistics Office (NSO) adopted the International Labor Organization's definition of unemployment which officially excluded discourage workers from the pool of unemployed. This group consists of unemployed workers who gave up looking for work after a long period of not finding one. Technically, these discouraged workers are not part of the labor force. Their removal from the equation has caused the unemployment rate to substantially go down relative to the old definition, or a reduction of an average of 1 million unemployed.

Addressing the jobs crisis requires that government should give priority to the objective attaining full employment. It should take center stage in the government's agenda. All policy instruments should be coordinated towards the pursuit of a development strategy centered on full employment. This carries many implications for the whole range of macroeconomic, financial, monetary, trade, fiscal, rural, industrial, investment, enterprise development and education policies.

In short, what is needed is an alternative development paradigm. It is only by breaking with the neoliberal straightjacket of "one size fits all" would the country be able to plot a course towards full, productive and decent work for all.

The question is: is government really serious about delivering its promises? With the way the government is negotiating away all our policy spaces in our trade relations, this does not seem to be so. The bilateral agreements such as the Japan - Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) and other free trade agreements it is forging in the wake of the faltering talks in the WTO would result to more jobs being destroyed as an unprepared economy with little and ineffective safety nets suffer the onslaught of foreign competition.

Indeed, under the GMA administration, things do not bode well for the working class.

Jul 22, 2007

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