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Philippine unemployment rate falls to 18-year low of 3.6%

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Unemployment rate in the Philippines fell to its lowest level in 18 years in November 2023, despite a drop in labor force participation.

The Labor Force Survey (LFS) for November 2023 saw 1.83 million unemployed people, or 350,000 fewer than 2.18 million in November 2022, leading to a drop in the unemployment rate to 3.6 percent.

It was the lowest recorded unemployment rate since the Philippine Statistics Authority introduced a new methodology for measuring the LFS in 2005, the National Economic and Development Authority said Tuesday.

The labor force participation rate slid to 65.9 percent from 67.5 percent in November 2022. This translated to an estimated 51.47 million Filipinos aged 15 years and older in the labor force, lower than the 51.88 million in November 2022.

The decline was mainly due to reduced participation of young people (34.4 percent from 40.0 percent) and women (55.4 percent from 57.8 percent) in the labor force, influenced by family responsibilities, schooling, and age-related factors.

NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan noted the need to expand the digital economy, including the digitalization of micro, small and medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and startups to address the declining labor force and increase labor market gains in 2024 and beyond.

“Digitalization enables alternative work arrangements, particularly for the youth, women, and those in the creative sector. This will help address the declining labor force,” he said.

“We will take full advantage of the liberalization reforms intended to attract investments in the Philippines, especially in digital infrastructure. Upgrading our infrastructure will attract investments that generate high-quality jobs,” the government’s chief economic planner said.

Balisacan said the government would further support a more productive, agile and adaptive workforce by passing and implementing crucial regulatory reforms, such as the Apprenticeship Bill, Lifelong Learning Bill, and the Enterprise Productivity Act.

He also underscored the need to establish a regulatory framework to allow alternative work arrangements, including part-time work, even in the formal economy.

“Allowing part-time work even in the formal sector will expand opportunities for lifelong learning, work experience in an organized setting, and coverage in social protection systems,” Balisacan said.

Meanwhile, the underemployment rate also eased to 11.7 percent in the same survey period from 14.4 percent in November 2022.

The number of underemployed persons, or those who expressed the desire to have an additional job and work hours, was estimated at 5.79 million in November, lower than the 7.16 million in November 2022.


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