There is a positive note in the October Labor Force Survey report of the Philippine Statistical Authority.
Unemployment in industry and services grew 5.2 percent and 4 percent, respectively, compared to October last year.
Underemployment dropped to 15.9 percent – from 18 percent last year. Underemployment refers to those who are already employed but would like to have additional work or hours of work, so as to have additional income.
There is, however, a negative note as well. Employment in agriculture went down 12.1 percent – or 1.4 million fewer jobs. As a result, the overall employment rate in the country rose from 4.7 percent last year to 5 percent this year.
As a result of all these changes, this nation of 104 million people today has a total of 43.72 million people in the active labor force, out of 70.4 million Filipinos at least 15 years old capable of doing work.
This latest report shows we are steadily improving in this key area of the national economy – employment. The overall economic picture is best computed through the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – the sum total of all that is produced by the nation, including our overseas Filipino workers.
In recent years, the remittances of OFWs have given a major boost to the economy, along with the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry. These have provided employment to so many Filipinos who cannot be accommodated in our manufacturing industries, in our tourism and other service establishments, and in our farmlands and fisheries.
It is unfortunate that agricultural employment is down in the last October report. Agriculture today is the third biggest contributor to the GNP, after manufacturing and services. But it holds the greatest potential for growth because of our vast agricultural lands and favorable climate. And most of the Philippine population remains in the rural areas.
In next year’s budget, there is a heavy emphasis on infrastructure under the “Build, Build, Build” program of the administration. This will be of special benefit to manufacturing, trade and commerce, and tourism and services.
But we must never lose sight of the vast potential of Philippine agriculture, both as an engine of the national economy and as source of employment and livelihood for our people. Perhaps after the building, we can start focusing on planting.