The Philippines’ record-high unemployment is considered among the greatest failures of the Arroyo administration and is seen to even worsen this year, according to research group Ibon Foundation.

Estimates made by IBON put the number of unemployed and underemployed Filipinos at 10.7 million in 2008. This was computed using the original National Statistics Office (NSO) definition of employment and assuming a labor force participation rate of 66.1% in 2008. The estimate tries to correct for official underestimation of joblessness since April 2005, when the NSO revised its definition and greatly reduced unemployment reports.

This year, joblessness is likely to increase at least 11 million or more, assuming that the labor force increases by 915,000 (the average increase over the last eight years) and that only 500,000 jobs are created, which implies an additional 415,000 jobless. This figure could be higher, as the employment situation is already far worse than the aftermath of the 1997 Asian Crisis when unemployment rate averaged 10% in 1998-1999 compared to nearly 11% in 2008.

The most recent severe worsening of the Philippine economic crisis in 2000 and 2001 may help illustrate what the country is now going through. Like today, the global slowdown in 2000 was precipitated by serious US financial and economic troubles– then it was the bursting of the “dot-com” or “new economy” bubble. The ranks of the unemployed swelled by an additional 640,000 Filipinos in 2000 and 2001 which brought the number of unemployed to 3.7 million in 2001 and the unemployment rate to 11.1% (from 9.8% in 1999). While 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.

Despite claims of economic success, job creation under the Arroyo administration since 2001 has been tepid and its policies have not been able to create enough jobs for Filipinos. The average real employment rate of over 11% since 2001 is the worst period of unemployment in the country’s history. The persistence of high unemployment despite supposedly sustained economic growth is also unprecedented.

All this highlights the need for a radical change in government’s economic policies. Measures that would yield immediate benefits include increasing public spending for social services, removing the VAT on oil products, freeing public resources by stopping debt payments, among others. More than these, the government’s elite-biased and free-market oriented policies, which have kept the Philippine economy backward, should be drastically changed. (end)

IBON Foundation, Inc. is an independent development institution established in 1978 that provides research, education, publications, information work and advocacy support on socioeconomic issues.(PinoyPress)


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