Danilo Suarez (Manila Standard)
With the resumption of the Philippine National Police’s campaign against illegal drugs, we are concerned that the marginal and unemployed sector will again be ignored.
I have consistently reiterated that the President should devote equal attention to other pressing issues in the country. The President’s approach has to transition from a local government perspective to that of a leader of nation. He is the Chief Executive. In all matters of government, the buck stops with him.
I am sure the President is aware that we have one of the worst unemployment rates, despite being alleged as one of the Asia’s fastest growing economies. The World Economic Situation and Prospects 2017 joint report by different United Nations commissions recognized the country for being one of Asia’s best economic performers, with an estimated seven percent growth in September last year. The growth is not inclusive in light of the unemployment rate.
The latest SWS survey conducted in December 2016 showed an increasing rate of unemployment in the country with 25.1 percent, that equates to 11.2-million adults jobless during the fourth quarter of 2016. This was deemed the worst in two years. The national annual average unemployment rate was 22.3 percent. Among the unemployed, 12.2 percent or 5.5-million people voluntarily left their jobs, 8.7 percent or 3.9-million people lost their jobs for economic reasons beyond their control, and 4.3 percent or 1.9-million people were first-time job seekers.
Based on the same survey, the poverty level increased, with 44 percent of families considering themselves poor, while those who are food-poor increased four points from the September 2016 statistics. The link is material.
Most of the unemployed belong to families in the marginalized sector. These people find it difficult to get jobs as they lack the required education or experience. If they are lucky, they get to work contractually as laborers. Once their contract expires, they revert to being jobless. What these people need are regular jobs that offer fair salaries which will serve as a consistent source of income for their families.
We cannot dismiss entirely the possibility that the US-based overseas Filipino workers and those employed in the BPO sector might lose their jobs if the US President follows through on his campaign promise to nationalize jobs that have been “off-shored” or given to migrant workers. This will increase the country’s unemployment rate, and impact negatively on our country’s main source of revenue. We hope this is mere speculation.
With all these factors at play, we call the President’s attention to the increasing levels of poverty and unemployment.
We are aware of the President’s EO 5 “Ambisyon Natin 2040.” Ambisyon Natin 2040 aims to eradicate hunger and poverty by 2040. However, the increasing rates of unemployment and poverty are so alarming that it needs immediate attention and urgent action. Hunger, poverty, and unemployment should be dealt with the same intensity and aggression as the war on drugs, if not more. The government should exert more effort on providing additional job opportunities and find creative, out-of-the-box alternatives to persons considered unemployable.
While the statistics cited seem to favor the government, it would not be true growth if a vast majority of our nation’s population wallow in poverty and endure hand-to-mouth lives. It is not true growth if most of our country are unable to find gainful, productive, and stable employment. In my opinion, we are not growing. If the poverty and unemployment rates are ominous of the future, we are in a downward spiral.