New labor entrants face gloomy jobs prospects photo Business World
Job and Employment

New labor entrants face gloomy jobs prospects

Jun 23, 2022, 7:50 AM
Rose De La Cruz

Rose De La Cruz

Columnist

Graduations are happy times. But the euphoria won’t last long when the graduates join the labor force, with employment not having returned to pre-pandemic levels yet and underemployment is still too high. Their option is to seek jobs abroad.

New college graduates for 2022—who had to get education and skills training (through on the job training programs) remotely because of COVID-19—join the swelling ranks of unemployed and underemployed in the Philippines.

As it is employment figures have not grown since 2019 (or the pre-pandemic levels) since thousands of companies were forced to shut down during the pandemic and have not since returned because their funds have dried up.

The unemployment rate may have eased to 5.7 percent in April from 5.8 percent in March and 8.7 percent the previous year, still 2.76 million Filipinos are jobless.

Of the 6.4 million employed Filipinos, they are still looking for extra jobs or longer work hours bringing the underemployment rate to 14 percent, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed.

“It looks like we’re promoting cheap labor. The government hasn’t said so, but the way it does things now, especially with wages, it promotes our country as a cheap labor hub. Investments will come in and guarantee profits to existing businesses and incoming investors because the Philippines is also competing with its neighbors in Southeast Asia,” said Alan Tanjusay, spokesman of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines.

Displaced workers have yet to return to work

Thousands of workers who lost their jobs at the height of the pandemic have yet to be called back to work, said Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, Jr., president of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines.

“Fresh graduates will have to compete with returning workers, including migrant workers who are coming home. Competition will be harder,” he told Philippine Star.

Fresh graduates do have an advantage because they might be more tech-savvy, he added.

A recent report said that most of the unemployed in the Philippines are fresh graduates with about 400,000 added to the labor force each year. But a significant ratio of them also are workers who were retrenched from their jobs or whose employment contracts were not renewed.

The government partnered with the employers’ group to generate a million jobs last year, and they expect to offer a million more this year, said Ortiz-Luis adding that jobs will come from manufacturing, construction, and outsourcing sectors, he added.

Create jobs for the still unemployed

“There is a need to create jobs for those who are still unemployed because there are still so many of them, as well as for those who will be coming into the labor market,” he added.

Many fresh graduates apply for overseas jobs because of brighter prospects of employability and higher pay, than if they start working in the Philippines where minimum wage is hardly enough for a family of three.

This year, more than 1.6 million students will graduate from 200 state-run higher education institutions nationwide, according to government media, further worsening the country’s job situation.

Fresh graduates in the Philippines get a monthly average salary of P16,509, based on 1,200 salaries reported as of May 19, according to job website Indeed.

For highly skilled new graduates, the monthly pay is P20,000 to P25,000, said Tanjusay of TUCP.

“When disorientation occurs as a result of a mismatch between graduates’ salary expectations and the actual salary, they choose to work abroad,” he said.

Minimum wages were raised in Metro Manila last June 3 by P33 a day and those in Western Visayas by P55 to P100. Separate wage increases were also approved for the Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, and Caraga regions.

Poverty

Almost four million more Filipinos became poor in the first half of 2021 amid the coronavirus pandemic, bringing the total to 26.14 million, the Philippine Statistics Authority said.

The country’s per capita poverty threshold — the amount needed by a person to buy basic goods such as food — rose to P2,416.33 a month from P1,474.83 in 2018, said the PSA.

The incoming government of President-elect Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. “must create four million jobs in two years or else poverty will worsen,” Tanjusay said, citing recent labor force surveys.

Tanjusay said it’s not wrong for new graduates to expect a high salary.

“Graduates, especially those from private universities, were exposed to good facilities, and they paid high tuition fees, so they would really have high expectations. However, in our existing economy, the reality is that the starting salary is really small,” Tanjusay said.

“Very few businesses and employers are innovative, adoptive and receptive to the needs of new graduates,” he added.

The desire, albeit desperation, to get a job can sometimes make applicants more prone to scams and fall prey to illegal recruiters, SMS, and Internet scams, further degrading their lives.

The government’s unemployment problem should not be remedied only by further exploration of job opportunities abroad. Such a solution may be deemed short-term for temporary migrant workers. Generating more jobs domestically should also be intensified.

Tags: #collegegraduates, #jobsmarket, #unemploymenthigh, #labor


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