Sunday, July 15, 2007

'EMPLOYMENT' UP, BUT LITTLE GAINFUL WORK

When President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo delivers her next SoNA, she will no doubt count among her administration’s accomplishments the increase in employment rate from last year to this year. But the government’s own figures show that there was not much gainful employment generated in the past year.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
LABOR WATCH
Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No. 23, July 15-21, 2007


When President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo delivers her State of the Nation Address (SoNA) this coming July 23, she will no doubt count among her administration’s accomplishments the increase in employment rate from last year to this year.

Unemployment rates had several times reached all-time highs under the Arroyo administration, especially during the President’s continuation of the term of deposed President Joseph Estrada (2001-2004). The growing unemployment rate was in fact one of the issues against Arroyo during the 2004 elections. In 2005, a change in the definition of unemployment effectively reduced the unemployment rates which had been among the smears in the record of the Arroyo administration thus far.

Arroyo may well be expected to use the statistics of increased employment from 2006 to 2007 as proof of improvement in the labor sector other than that which was semantically induced in 2005.

Based on the April 2006 and April 2007 Labor Force Surveys of the National Statistics Office (NSO), there was a growth in the country’s labor force (those 15 years old and above) from 54.98 million in April 2006 to 56.41 million in April 2007.

The increase in the size of the country’s labor force is taken into account in the comparative data from the NSO, which shows an increase in the employment rate from 91.8 percent in April 2006 to 92.8 percent in April 2007, or a decrease in the unemployment rates from 8.2 to 7.4 percent in the period between the two Labor Force Surveys. Likewise, there is supposed to have been a decrease in the number of the underemployed –- or those working less than 40 hours a week –- from 25.4 percent in April 2006 to 18.9 percent in April 2007.

The statistics look encouraging. But the real picture becomes clearer when the number of jobs generated for each category of employment is broken down.

As NSO Administrator Carmelita Ericta said in her explanation of the results of the April 2007 Labor Force Survey:

“Out of the estimated 56.4 million population 15 years and over in April 2007, approximately 36.4 million were in the labor force. These figures placed the labor force participation rate at 64.5 percent.

“The April 2007 employment rate of 92.6 percent implies that the total employed population was 33.7 million in April 2007. Almost half or 49.3 percent of the total employed in this period were in the services sector; about the same percentage was recorded in April 2006 (49.5 percent). The percentage of employed workers in the agriculture sector in April 2007 was 35.2 percent, while that for the industry sector was 15.6 percent.”

More precisely, the NSO’s data place the number of employed persons in the country at 32,699,000 in April 2006 and 33,706,000 in April 2007.

Employment categories

There are, however, many categories of employment. As Ericta explains:

“Employed persons fall into any of these three categories: wage and salary workers, own account workers and unpaid family workers. Wage and salary workers are those who work for private establishments, government or government corporations and those who work with pay in own-family operated farms or businesses. Of the total employed population in April 2007, 51.1 percent were wage and salary workers, most of them (38.2 percent of the total employed) working for private establishments. Those working for the government or government corporations accounted for only 7.6 percent of the total employed population. Own-account workers, such as proprietors and self-employed workers, constituted 35.8 percent of the total employed in April 2007, with the self-employed workers having the larger share (31.9 percent). The unpaid family workers comprised only 13.1 percent.

“Employed persons are classified as either full-time workers or part-time workers. Full-time workers are those who work for 40 hours or more, while part-time workers work for less than 40 hours. More than half (55.5 percent) of the total employed persons in April 2007 were full-time workers, most of them working for 40 to 48 hours (34.6 percent of total employed). Part-time workers comprised 41.8 percent of the total employed.

“Employed persons who want or desire additional hours of work are considered underemployed. The proportion of underemployed persons to total employed was estimated at 18.9 percent in April 2007. Dominating the underemployed population were those working in the agriculture sector, comprising 48.3 percent of the total underemployed in April 2007. Underemployed persons in the services sector accounted for 35.2 percent while those in the industry sector, 16.5 percent. About 65.3 percent of the underemployed were reported as visibly underemployed, or had been working for less than 40 hours a week.”

Based on the NSO’s data, the number of wage and salary workers increased in the period between the two Labor Force Surveys from 50.6 to 51.1 percent, while the unpaid family workers increased from 11.9 to 13.1 percent. The own account workers, meanwhile, decreased from 37.5 to 35.8 percent for the said period.

Even looking only at percentage rates, it is already easy to notice that there was a greater percentage increase in unpaid family labor than in wage and salary labor. One gets a fuller view of the picture by taking into consideration the actual figures.

Wage and salary workers comprised 50.6 percent of 32,699,000 employed persons in April 2006 –- or 16,545,694. The same category made up 51.1 percent of 33,706,000 employed persons in April 2007 –- or 17,223,766. This means an increase of 678,072 from April 2006 to April 2007.

Unpaid family labor made up 11.9 percent of 32,699,000 employed persons in April 2006 –- or 3,891,181. This same category comprised 13.1 percent of 33,706,000 employed persons in April 2007 -– or 4,415,486. This shows an increase of 524,305 in the number of unpaid family workers in the period between the two Labor Force Surveys.

Adding the increases in the numbers of wage and salary workers and unpaid family workers from April 2006 to April 2007, we get a total of 1,202,377 –- which is the number of jobs generated from April 2006 to April 2007.

Meanwhile, own account workers decreased in number from 37.5 percent of 32,699,000 (12,262,165) in April 2006 to 35.8 percent of 33,706,000 (12,066,748) in April 2007 – or a difference of 195,417.

Subtracting this number from the total number of jobs generated from April 2006 to April 2007, we get an increase of 1,006,960 in the number of employed persons for the period between the two Labor Force Surveys.

It is thus easily visible that of the jobs generated from April 2006 to April 2007, almost half was unpaid family labor. Those who found “jobs” as unpaid family workers between April 2006 and April 2007 comprise 43.61 percent of the total number of persons who got “employed” in the period between the two Labor Force Surveys.

Meanwhile, those who work less than 40 hours a week increased from 40.8 percent to 41.8 percent from April 2006 to April 2007, while those working 40 hours or more a week decreased from 56.9 percent to 55.5 percent in the same period. We can get a clearer view of the situation by taking stock of the actual figures.

Those working for less than 40 hours a week comprised 40.8 percent of 32,699,000 employed persons (13,341,192) in April 2006 and 41.8 percent of 33,706,000 (14,089,108) in April 2007. This amounts to an increase of 747,916 in the number of part-time workers from April 2006 to April 2007.

In contrast, those working 40 hours or more a week made up 56.9 percent of the April 2006 number of employed persons (18,605,731) and 55.5 percent of the April 2007 number (18,706,830). This means an increase of 101,099.

Thus, we can see that the increase in the number of part-time workers is in fact greater that that in the number of full-time workers.

The NSO’s data also shows a decrease in underemployment from 25.4 percent in April 2006 to 18.5 percent in April 2007. Computing the actual numbers, we get the total of 8,305,546 underemployed persons in April 2006 and 6,235,610 in April 2007. There appears to be a decrease of 2,069,936 in the number of underemployed persons in the period between the two Labor Force Surveys.

But there are other factors to be considered in analyzing the classification of employed persons into part-time and full-time workers, or of workers into employed and underemployed. In comparing employment statistics between one year and another, the NSO in its Labor Force Survey takes into account only the question of whether a particular person was employed part-time or full-time at the very time of every particular survey, and not how long he was employed full-time or how many times he was employed part-time over an entire year.

With contractualization being the trend since the 1990s and jobs becoming scarcer, it has become common for people to be in contractual jobs for three to six months and then spend the rest of the year looking for work. If the NSO takes into account in its definition of underemployment the total number of hours a particular person was able to work over an entire year and divided it into the number of weeks in each year (52) to get his average number of work hours for every week, the number of underemployed persons would surely be different.

Little gainful employment

Taken as a whole, the comparative employment statistics for April 2006 and April 2007 would seem to paint a promising picture for the country’s ever-growing labor force.

But broken down into their different mathematical components, these figures give us a view that is not so rosy.

Of the 33,706,000 employed persons in April 2007, 51.1 percent or 17,223,766 are wage and salary workers while the rest are either “self-employed” or unpaid family workers. Those categorized as self-employed workers, 10,752,214, are mostly ambulant vendors who usually earn way below the minimum wage.Adding this to the 4,415,486 unpaid family workers would show that almost half of those classified as employed, or a total of 15,167,700 workers, are actually not gainfully employed.

Meanwhile, those working part-time amount to also almost half of the total number of employed persons, comprising 41.8 percent or 14,089,108. Full-time workers made up 55.5 percent of the total employed, or 18,706,830.

Thus, almost half of the 92.6 percent of the labor force classified as employed are not really earning enough for a decent living as they are either self-employed or unpaid family workers, and many are working part-time.

While there appears to be a substantial increase in employment from April 2006 to April 2007, there is no change in the overall picture between the two Labor Force Surveys.

The figure of 1,202,377 jobs generated between April 2006 and April 2007 looks encouraging. However, it loses its luster when we consider that 43.61 percent -– dangerously close to half -– of the jobs generated for the said period is actually unpaid family labor. Likewise, there was a greater increase in part-time jobs than in full-time jobs.

While employment statistics seem to be getting better, in reality there is little gainful employment in the country –- thus the rush in seeking employment abroad. Bulatlat

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