Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The Manila Times Internet Edition | BUSINESS > Not in the labor force!

The Manila Times Internet Edition | BUSINESS > Not in the labor force!

I don't know if the Manila Times have an online achive, but I think this article deserves to be archived for reference

By Rene E. Ofreneo
Not in the labor force!

If you are 25 years old, an AB philosophy graduate and has given up on the challenge of looking for a job because you could not find any in the last three years, what will you tell a job surveyor from the National Statistics Office who is asking if you are employed or unemployed?

Most likely, you will answer: pagod na ako, hindi na ako naghahanap ng trabaho. And most likely too, the NSO enumerator will not include you in the ranks of the employed or in the “unemployed” category. You will be lumped in the large statistical concept called “not in the labor force”—those of working age (15 years old and above), not working and not looking for any work.

In the October 2004 NSO survey, as many as 18 million, or one-third of the 54 million total working-age population, were classified as not in the labor force (NILF).

The NILF Filipinos have no luxury of looking for any work because they are supposed to be doing full-time housekeeping, schooling or recuperating from infirmity or disability.

But is housekeeping really a full-time preoccupation these days? Maybe for a few thousand elite housewives. Working to make both ends meet is a universal necessity for both husbands and wives.

As to schooling, how many students of working age can devote full-time attention to schooling without thinking of work? At the most, they cannot be more than three million at any given time, for most of the student-enrollees in the Philippines are elementary and secondary pupils, below 15 years old.

As to the disabled and sickly, we do not have any clear statistical indicators. However, they cannot be more than the full-time students of working age.

The point is that the NILF hides many underutilized human resources and reduces the unemployment/underemployment figures.

In the October 2004 survey, the unemployed was estimated to be 3.9 million, or 10.9 percent of the labor force, and the underemployed (the employed seeking additional work), 5.4 million, or 16.9 percent of the 35.6-million-strong labor force. The joke among the labor economists is that if the government wants to reduce the unemployment figure, all it has to do is put some of the unemployed into the category not in the labor force.

Which is what some are probably trying to do by introducing the so-called “ILO Concept.” According to the NSO, the ILO Concept defines the unemployed as without work, seeking work and available for work. In contrast, the traditional NSO Concept defines the unemployed as without work and seeking work, with the latter criterion relaxed a bit to include those “not looking for work because of the belief that no work was available, or because of temporary illness/disability, bad weather, pending job application or waiting for job interview.”

By adopting the “stricter” ILO Concept, the unemployment situation changes dramatically. Instead of 3.8 million unemployed, the country only had 2.4 million as of October 2004. Through a change in unemployment concepts, 1.4 million unemployed Filipinos disappeared from the statistics, swallowed by the NILF category which expanded by the same number, thus rising from 18 to 19.4 million! Instead of a double-digit unemployment figure, we now have only 7.1-percent unemployment rate—the lowest since the martial law days!

But who are we kidding by fudging the unemployment and underemployment statistics? How can we have a more realistic assessment of unemployment/underemployment and a more scientific education-manpower development planning if we try to “prettify” the employment outlook?

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