Philippines struggles with unemployment despite economic growth

Photo via gmanetwork.com

Photo via gmanetwork.com

By Felipe Salvosa/Financial Times – Despite rapid economic growth in the Philippines in recent years, unemployment remains a persistent problem for the sprawling Southeast Asian nation of more than 100 million people.

Under President Benigno Aquino, in office since 2010, unemployment has fallen. The latest figures show the rate at 6.4 per cent in the second quarter of this year, down from 7 per cent a year earlier. But progress has been uneven and the Philippines still has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the Asean region.

One reason is that job creation has struggled to keep pace with an ever-expanding population. In three of the past five years, the number of people entering the job market has been greater than the number of jobs created.

The conundrum highlights the difficulty of spreading the benefits of economic growth and suggests they have yet to trickle down to more deprived areas.

Participation in the labour force remains relatively low. Only about 65 per cent of the population aged 15 and above is looking for work, one of the lowest levels in the region. This compares with 78 per cent in Vietnam, 72 per cent in Thailand and 68 per cent in Indonesia.

This is partly explained by the high value set on further education in the Philippines: young Filipinos typically spend some time in college before entering the labour market, contributing to the lower participation rate. Others in the region go to work earlier.

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