Manila's data on jobless ‘hides the real picture’

The Straits Times, 19 December 2000

Actual rate of those without jobs likely to be higher

MANILA—Official Philippine unemployment data is masking a much larger number of idle people, with the real unemployment rate likely to be double the officially acknowledged number, officials said.

In an October survey, the National Statistics Office (NSO) reported that 3.1 million Filipinos—or 11.1 per cent—did not have jobs as compared with the 27.77 million who had, according to the Philippine Today newspaper.

But according to Independent Representative Ralph Recto of Batangas, a scrutiny of government-issue employment data would show that joblessness in the country was actually higher than reported.

For one, 3.47 million Filipinos classified as unpaid family workers—those who toil on family-owned farms—were deemed gainfully employed by the government.

Mr Recto said that many of these farm workers had no choice but to be shackled to unpaid farm work for lack of job opportunities elsewhere.

His observation was backed up by data showing that more than 10.5 million Filipinos were classified by the government as own account workers—probably self-employed professionals, businessmen or craftsmen.

But Mr Recto said the term own account workers covered a lot of ground. It was a wide net that could cover a salesman who worked on commission basis, a cigarette vendor or your neighbourhood car-wash boy.

The NSO, however, placed the number of unemployed at 5.5 million, accounting for almost 20 per cent of the employment rate.

Thus, if the unemployment rate of 11.1 per cent were added to the underemployment rate of 19.9 per cent, one could come up with a figure of 31 per cent which could be the real unemployment rate.

This meant that nearly one out of three Filipinos was out of work, he said.