Alarming PH has highest jobless rate in Asia photo The Straits Times
Job and Employment

Alarming: PH has highest jobless rate in Asia

Nov 27, 2021, 4:06 AM
Rose De La Cruz

Rose De La Cruz


The country’s monthly labor force survey showed the unemployment rate was the highest last September at 8.9 percent in Asia.

FOR the first time, the Philippines is conducting a monthly survey of the labor force to have a better gauge of the job gains as quarantine restrictions are relaxed.

But the September jobs survey showed the Philippines having the highest jobless rate in emerging Asia at 8.9 percent, the Inquirer reported.

Its neighbors, also do a monthly survey of the jobs situation---except for Indonesia which does as twice a year survey or in February and August.

4.3-M unemployed

China and Vietnam which release quarterly jobs situations and like the Philippine Statistics Authority used to do—reported lower jobless rates.

India has 7.6 percent in July to August; Indonesia, 6.3 percent in February; Malaysia, 4.8 percent in July; China, 3.9 percent in September and Vietnam, 3.6 percent in September.

The country’s 8.9 percent jobless rate in September, the highest so far this year, translated to 4.3 million unemployed Filipinos.

The government had attributed the high unemployment rate mainly to bad weather and the end of harvest season as these shed 862,000 seasonal and vulnerable jobs in the agriculture sector last September.

“Nevertheless, the year-to-date average unemployment rate of 8.1 percent remains within the Updated Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 target of 7-9 percent,” NEDA said.

NEDA said further reopening the economy through the full implementation of granular lockdowns, along with the accelerated rollout of the vaccination program in areas outside the National Capital Region (NCR) were key to economic recovery and the returns of more jobs and livelihood.

Expanded alert level

While the government expanded its localized alert level system which limited restrictions to smaller and specific areas with COVID-19 outbreak, NEDA said “establishments are likewise encouraged to innovate and adopt digital solutions to ensure business continuity and lower the risk of transmission.”

With the vaccination rate in the NCR already exceeding 85 percent, the government’s vaccination efforts are now focused on the other regions.

“Vaccination plays a key role in promoting the safe recovery of economic activities. In fact, the International Labor Organization estimates that for every 14 fully vaccinated individuals, one job is added to the global labor market,” NEDA said.

It added that “the full implementation of the recovery programs and the urgent passage of economic liberalization bills is crucial in supporting the recovery.”

“For instance, the amendments to the Public Service Act redefines the coverage of public utilities and proposes to remove foreign ownership restrictions in critical services sectors such as transportation and telecommunications, among others. This will encourage the entry of more players and help provide consumers with a wider range of choices and improved quality of services at more reasonable rates,” NEDA said.

2020 jobless rate

In 2020, the Philippines' unemployment rate climbed to a 15-year high of 10.3 percent or 4.5 million jobless Filipinos at the height of the longest and most stringent COVID-19 lockdown in the region.

But in July joblessness went down to 6.9 percent (the lowest) from 7.7 percent in June.

The unemployment rate rose again to 8.9 percent in September 2021, even as the government somewhat eased restrictions despite surging COVID-19 cases.

This is the highest unemployment rate for 2021, so far, or since the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) began releasing monthly labor force data.


The seesawing unemployment rate indicates the seasonality of agriculture jobs, instability of the manufacturing sector (although service sector particularly IT-BPO which remains robust) and the uncertainty posed by the pandemic, accompanied by the continuingly slow vaccine rollout and high hesitancy rate.

The rising job loss points to the urgency of providing substantial stimulus like cash aid for vulnerable Filipinos and support for production sectors and small businesses.

But it could also be viewed as the highest since the 10 percent recorded in July 2020, when the PSA released labor force data on a quarterly basis.

In a briefing on Thursday, November 4, National Statistician Dennis Mapa said the latest figure is equivalent to 4.25 million jobless Filipinos.

Last August, when Metro Manila and other urban areas were placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the unemployment rate stood at 8.1 percent, equivalent to 3.88 million people with no work.


The underemployment rate, or the percentage of the working population looking for more work, went down to 14.2 percent or 6.18 million Filipinos in September from 14.7 percent or 6.48 million Filipinos in August.

A total of 43.59 million Filipinos had work in September, bringing the employment rate to 91.1 percent. This is lower than August's 91.9 percent or 44.23 million.

"These results were expected as many parts of the country remained under stringent and blanket quarantines for most of the survey period," said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua.


Mapa explained that bad weather conditions contributed to the increase in unemployment in September.

Some 862,000 jobs in agriculture and forestry were lost in September, the highest among industries.

Typhoon Jolina (Conson) affected some 30,000 hectares of agricultural land across the regions of Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Bicol, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, and Eastern Visayas. This decline came after the sector regained 1.9 million jobs in August.

Manufacturing also lost some 343,000 jobs, followed by information and communication (126,000), mining and quarrying (75,000), and real estate activities (69,000).


Meanwhile, wholesale and retail trade registered the largest increase at 353,000, followed by public administration and defense (118,000), education (115,000), construction (105,000), and administrative and support services (89,000).

Employment increased by 414,000 in the services sector, mostly driven by wholesale and retail trade, tempering the net employment loss in September.

The government's economic managers expect employment figures to improve in the coming months, as the economy reopens due to the decline in COVID-19 cases.

Tags: #unemployment, #NEDA, #joblessrate, #economy, #laborforcesurvey, #employment

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