PH has worst unemployment rate despite high GDP growth - Ibon

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An independent research group said the Philippines still has the “worst” unemployment rate in Asia despite posting a 6.9-percent growth in gross domestic product.

In a statement, Ibon said economic growth “should not be used to divert public attention from fundamental problems of chronic joblessness and poverty.”

Citing the latest labor force survey data, Ibon said the unemployment rate in the country was set at 5.8 percent in January 2016, higher than slower-growing economies like China (4 percent), Vietnam (2.3 percent), Indonesia (5.5 percent), Malaysia (3.5 percent), and Thailand (1 percent).

The group said growth can be a “convenient” but “misleading” indicator of development.

Ibon said the number of underemployed and discouraged worker are also rapidly rising, noting that underemployed Filipinos increased by 847,000 to 7.7 million in January 2016 from the same period last year.

This was despite the fact that employment increased from 38.4 million in January 2015 to 39.2 million in January 2016, while the number of unemployed Filipinos supposedly fell from 2.7 million to 2.4 million in the same period.

Ibon added that the labor force participation rate or the share of the working age population working or looking for work “has fallen to crisis levels,” as it hit 63.4 percent in January 2016, which was “practically as low as the 63.3 percent in January 2009 or right after the 2008 global financial crisis.”

“It is already the lowest in over 30 years since averaging just 62.9 percent annually during the 1981-1985 economic crisis in the closing years of the Marcos dictatorship,” the group said.

Ibon said the labor force grew only by 487,000 despite the working age population growing by 1.1 million in January 2016.

“These results are consistent with growing numbers of discouraged workers which in effect lowers unemployment figures. Unemployed workers are dropping out of the labor force or potential new participants are not bothering to join the labor force, or both,” it added.

The group cited neoliberal economic policies as the culprit behind the “worsening jobs situation” in the country “that have stunned Filipino industry and kept local agriculture backward,” which it said was aggravated by “growing labor flexibilization and contractualization.” JE/rga.