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Unemployment rate hits 18-year low

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THE Philippines’ unemployment rate hit an 18-year low of 3.6 percent in November last year, the government reported on Tuesday.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said the rate was lower than the figures for November 2022 and October 2023, which were both at 4.2 percent.

In terms of magnitude, the number of unemployed individuals in November 2023 was estimated at 1.83 million, from 2.18 million in November 2022 and 2.09 million in October 2023.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said the November unemployment rate was the lowest recorded since the PSA introduced a new methodology for measuring it in the 2005 Labor Force Survey.

The labor force participation rate slid to 65.9 percent from 67.5 percent in November 2022. This translates 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 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 M. Balisacan stressed 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,” Balisacan 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,” he added.

Balisacan said that the government will 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 last November, lower than the 7.16 million in November 2022.

“We are confident that our unemployment numbers will only continue to improve as the Marcos administration continues to implement its comprehensive strategy in employment and investment generation,” Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said.

“I believe we have what it takes to achieve the President’s goal of bringing down the Philippines’ unemployment rate to 4 to 5 percent, or even better, by 2028,” he added.

Diokno said the government will continue to maintain the country’s macroeconomic stability by staying on the path of fiscal consolidation through the Medium-Term Fiscal Framework.

“This will lead to the creation of more quality jobs and reduction of poverty incidence by steering the economy back to its high-growth path in the near term while sustaining high and inclusive growth in the medium term,” he added.


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