6 Reasons Why Philippine Jobless Rate is High

The Philippines has long been a labor exporting market. About 2,500 Filipinos leave the country on a daily basis to seek for greener pastures abroad and better provide for the needs of the family, notwithstanding the social impact of this Filipino diaspora.

Unemployment rate in the country stands at around 7 to 8 per cent. In comparison with our Asia-Pacific neighbors, Malaysia has 3.4 percent, 8.9 percent in Indonesia, 2.3 percent in Thailand, and 3.4 percent in Singapore. In South Korea, it was 3.5 percent, Taiwan, 4.3 percent, China, 3.9 percent and Vietnam, 5.6 percent.

Most of the unemployed in the Philippines are fresh graduates with about 400,000 added to the labor force each year. But a significant ratio of them also are workers who were retrenched from their jobs or whose employment contracts were not renewed. So let’s identify the reasons why unemployment in the Philippines is high.

Oversupply of labor force on popular careers
The country’s education system continues to produce college graduates whose skills don’t necessarily fit with what is in demand in the job market. When nurses were in demand abroad in the earlier part of the decade, nursing schools have mushroomed to accommodate growing demand for nursing education, effectively leaving out other medical fields such as respiratory therapists, cardio technicians and CT-scan operators that are also in demand abroad. As a result, many nursing graduates fail to land their dream jobs.

University of the Philippines College of Nursing Dean Dr. Josefina Tuazon explained that due to the numerous nursing graduates this year at 67,728, hospitals have to get volunteer nurses — a lot better because they are not paid — to accommodate the fresh graduates.

Philippine Nurses Association National President Leah Paquiz disclosed that United States, almost home to 250,000 Filipino nurses in the past years, stopped issuing work visas this year because the quota requirement for migrant workers has already been reached. There were 21,000 Filipino nurses seeking employment in the US in 2007.

Lack of quality graduates
According to Lito Soriano of LBS-E Recruitment and executive director of the Federated Associations of Manpower Exporters, over 2,000 nursing schools have an annual total enrollment of over 420,000 students and each year, 100,000 new nurses take the board exams yet only 40 percent are able to make the grade. More than 100,000 college graduates fail in qualifying board exams each year with customs brokers and librarians posting the lowest passing rates.

While the number of board examinees is on the rise since year 2000, BON member Marco Sto. Tomas said the passing rate exhibited a declining trend from a high of 55.8 percent in 1998 to a low of 45.2 percent in 2006, or an annual average of 49.5 percent. This year, only 39 percent of nursing licensure examinees passed the board exam held last June 2009.

Citing a report by the Commission on Audit, out of 263 nursing schools surveyed, only 111 had at least 50 percent of their graduates pass the local nursing eligibility test from 2001 to 2005. The 2006 nursing board exam anomaly also affected the confidence of foreign employers towards capability of Filipino nurses.

Inability to take on available jobs or seize opportunities
Because of lack of related skills and experience, jobless workers or fresh graduates are unable to take on careers that are available in the job market. Some would think it’s unimaginable to take a job that’s too unrelated to the course he/she finished in college. With little or no entrepreneurial skills, many job hunters are unable or unwilling to establish own business.

Apparently clueless job applicants
It’s hard, if not impossible, to land a job if an applicant doesn’t even know where to start. Even if they’re looking at a job description, some of them are unable to figure out how to fill up a form, how to use e-mail service or find the address of the recruitment agency. A few would leave comments in a news article expressing their interest. Anyone wants to see more proof? Have a look at the comments of a past article about gas station attendant jobs in Dubai.

Discrimination and unreasonable job requirements
In the Philippines, a simple job vacancy gets way too many applicants. As a way to pre-qualify applicants (or discourage those that are not fit), employers have set requirements that are otherwise discriminatory and unreasonable. Take a look at a typical job posting for a cashier job vacancy in Manila.

To become a cashier, one has to have height and age requirements, and as a hygiene-conscious country, such requirement is also disclosed up front. Instead of relying on experience and skills, many Filipino employers rely on looks, age and other unnecessary requirements (at least for a cashier job). Customers need to pay you even if you don’t look very pretty; is the cashier chair too high that a certain height must be reached? Maybe these companies can’t pay that much, so they only take fresh graduates who may accept lower than minimum salary rate.

As of 2005, the Philippines is home to 85 million Filipinos. Considering the annual population growth rate of 2.3%, the country’s population might reach and even grow above 95 million in as short as 5 years (Perez 2005). After another 20 years or so, this number might even reach 150 million.

The pace at which jobs are created simply cannot cope up with steady supply of graduates whom many will find themselves unemployed. A country with large population doesn’t automatically have unemployment problems. Opportunities can be built out of such situation. More babies born mean more jobs for construction workers who build hospitals and schools. More jobs for nurses and teachers who will take care and educate these children. More foreign businesses will be setup because with a large pool of cheap labor, it becomes cost efficient to operate in the country.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t exactly work that way in the Philippines.

Such desperation to get a job can sometimes make applicants more prone to scams and fall prey to illegal recruiters, SMS and Internet scams, further degrading their lives. The government’s unemployment problem should not be remedied only by further exploration of job opportunities abroad (and bragging rights to the Super Maid program). Such solution may be deemed short-term for temporary migrant workers. Generating more jobs domestically should also be intensified.