Social Weather Stations (SWS) surveys on employment reveal that unemployment remains high and is even rising in the country.
From unemployment rates of 20.5% in June 2010 and 24.0% at the end of 2011, the SWS unemployment figures drastically jumped to 34.4% in March 2012. Though registering a decrease during the second quarter survey, the adult unemployment rate was still high at 26.6%.
Many find survey results like that of the SWS, even if taken from smaller random samples, much more reflective of reality compared to the reports of the government’s Labor Force Survey (LFS). This may be because SWS surveys are more spontaneously derived from real, as-is situations and straightforward replies, and not contrived and distorted by so many quibbles and exceptions that redefine and seek to hide unemployment in cosmeticized government statistics.
Against high unemployment ratings in current as well as recent past SWS surveys, the latest government statistics pretend that unemployment only affected 6.9% or 2.803 million as of April 2012, supposedly down by some 68,000 from the 7.2% level of unemployment in the same month of 2011.
The government’s low unemployment figures make-believe that almost 38 are employed in the country. But, in reality, the great majority of these are unemployed or underemployed.
In the rural areas, most of these are actually unemployed or have only minimal part-time seasonal work.
In the cities and towns, most of those the government defines as “employed” have only casual or labor agency-contracted, very short-term jobs that would not last more than a few months. The now rampant contractualization of most jobs in economic entities in the country has been the result of the imposition of imperialist-dictated neoliberal economic policies that since the ’90s, have drastically massacred the bulk of regular employment in the country.
Additionally, more than the number of the actually employed in economic entities are the numerous “self-employed” (street peddlers, sidewalk and market vendors, scrap collectors and dealers, construction peons, jeepney barkers and the like) who number some 11 million, and “unpaid family workers” who add another 4.5 million to the nominally employed but are actually mostly unemployed.
So much for what the government presiding over the unemployment-studded, backward socio-economic system prevailing in the country has been trying to hide.
Real employment data reveal how utterly backward the Philippine economy is especially in terms of industrial development and particularly in manufacturing. As of April 2012 only some 8.4% of employed workers are absorbed in the manufacturing sector while 51.4% are in the service sector, and the remaining 33% are in the agricultural sector.
The very low level of industrial activity, especially manufacturing, in the country, as well as the widely prevailing tenancy situation and feudal/semifeudal relations in the rural areas, spells very low level of production and consequently backward socio-economic development, massive unemployment, and unmitigated poverty, hunger and misery among the people, especially the toiling masses.
The socio-economic performance of the country under the prevailing system has been so poor for several decades and going from bad to worse, so that even the US imperialist international finance arm, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in its latest World Economic Outlook which came out last month, has categorized the Philippines as one of the laggards in economic growth among the ASEAN countries.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has lately also come out with a more succinct analysis of the Philippines’ poor economic performance, citing as the main reason for the country’s being one of the region’s laggard: “stagnant industrialization in the past decades.” In the ADB paper circulated at its annual meeting held in the country early this month which was addressed by President Aquino himself, it stated that the country’s chronic problems of high unemployment, slow poverty reduction, and low investment “are reflections of sluggish industrialization.” The paper criticizes the Philippine economy as overly geared to services with the fast sprouting of business process outsourcing (BPO) to the utter neglect of industrial development. The paper recalled that in the ’50s and ’60s, the Philippines was the region’s economic leader “with a relatively advanced manufacturing sector and well-developed human capital,” but after its industrial base weakened over the last five decades, “gross domestic product per capita dropped from being one of the top in the region to almost at the bottom.” Among the most painful repercussions of this, the paper said, has been the high and worsening unemployment and underemployment, especially as the economy of the country has been hit by the global crisis. The paper stressed that the country’s biggest need now is to develop a stronger industrial base.
The Filipino people have to decisively put an end to the rotten, backward, semicolonial, semifeudal, agrarian and pre-industrial socio-economic system that has long been prevailing in the country. They have to decisively make the required leap to national industrialization, genuine agrarian reform, modernization of the economy, people’s democracy and social progress for the toiling masses and the whole people. The economy should graduate from catering principally to services instead of production, from reducing locals to being just lowly diggers of mines and hewers of wood for the imperialists, from being mere re-exporters of semi-processed components with very minimal manufacturing value-added, and from relying too much on labor outsourcing from imperialist countries and on remittances from migrant workers. Otherwise it will only remain more and more the laggard that it has been for the past decades in the ASEAN region and even the larger scope of Asia. Consequently, the people will only suffer more and more underdevelopment, unemployment, hunger and misery, no matter how much successive ruling regimes try to hide these behind cosmeticized figures.
In the face of all this, what do we seek?
The National Democratic Front (NDF) has long been pressing one ruling regime after another of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) to seriously discuss the matter on the negotiating table, especially as Socio-Economic Reforms are the next agenda of the once again stalled peace process.
But the government of Benigno S. Aquino III, that presently presides over the ruling state and system in the country, seems to just want to cling to the prevailing rotten, backward system and remains uninterested in discussing the matter with the NDF and opening its mind to the socio-economic reforms urgently necessary for the country and people to progress. The ruling regime, instead, seems to just want to go on with its Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program, that would only further promote neocolonialism and further deter national industrialization and economic self-reliance in the country; with its lack of genuine interest and push for agrarian reform, that would only prolong problems with semifeudalism and further deter full socio-economic development in the countryside; and with its conditional cash transfer program, that would only promote social mendicancy and further deter real systemic and truly productive solutions to the root causes of underdevelopment, poverty and social misery in the country.
ALAN JAZMINES | NDF peace consultant, and NDF Socio-Economic Reform Committee member detained at Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig City