BY REGINA BENGCO
THERE were 10.7 million unemployed and underemployed Filipinos last year, the research group IBON Foundation said yesterday.
The number is likely to increase to at least 11 million based on the assumption that the labor force increases by 915,000 every year and that only 500,000 jobs are created. This means the number of jobless Filipinos increases by 415,000 yearly, IBON said.
The group said the figure could be higher as the employment situation is already “far worse” than the aftermath of the 1997 Asian financial crisis when unemployment rate averaged 10 percent in 1998-1999 compared to nearly 11 percent in 2008.
It said the Philippines’ condition could be likened to the global slowdown in 2000, which was also caused by US financial and economic troubles, when unemployment rose to 3.7 million in 2001.
“There is strong reason to believe that the Philippine economy will again go in these directions or even worse, as the current global economic financial turmoil is not just deeper and farther-reaching but will also last for much longer,” it said.
IBON said job creation under the Arroyo administration since 2001 has been “tepid” and its policies have not been able to create enough jobs for Filipinos.
It recommended “radical change” in the government’s economic policies such as increasing public spending for social services, removing the value-added tax on oil products, and freeing public resources by stopping debt payments.
Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said the Cabinet is looking at a better response to job losses of some Filipino workers because of the global recession. He said President Arroyo will look at other job opportunities for displaced overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) when she goes to Switzerland, Italy and Bahrain at the end of the month.
Dureza said proposals such as giving emergency allowance to displaced workers has been the subject of further discussions by government’s economic managers.
“We always say that we can never tell what is going to happen in the future but we have been strengthening ourselves, preparing for any eventuality,” he said.
Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said his department will implement at least 3,500 projects to create around some 130,000 jobs.
Among these projects are goat raising and dispersing, construction of farm-to-market roads, rehabilitation of irrigation systems, and production of organic fertilizers.
The projects are yet to be finalized in July. No time-frame has been set for implementation. — With Angela Lopez de Leon(Malaya)