Friday, September 7, 2012

Are we seeing a bright employment future for the youth?

..More young Filipino workers may secure jobs in the next three or four years, an expert said, even as she urged the government to make sure that employment generated is "decent and productive." "Preliminary data show that youth unemployment rate is at 16 percent as of April and gathering from rates in the past, this will likely further decrease although minimally," Ruth Georget of the International Labor Organization Office in Manila told Yahoo! Southeast Asia in a phone interview. Georget pointed to incremental but consistent declines in the country's youth unemployment rate from an average of 16.3 percent last year and 17.6 percent in 2010 based on National Statistics Office data. If the decline will continue, the Philippines will buck the trend for youth unemployment globally, Georget said. Georget was referring to the the ILO's recent report titled "Global Employment Outlook: Bleak Labour Market Prospects for Youth," which forecast youth unemployment rate to rise to 12.9 percent in 2017 from 12.7 percent this year. A more marked increase is expected in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, where the ILO sees unemployment rate of 14.2 percent in 2017, up from 2012's 13.1 percent. Although Georget does not expect the Philippines to follow this trend, she noted that "this is not to say that we are free of the challenge." The country's current youth unemployment rate remains higher than the global and regional average, Georget said. On top of this, about a third of the Filipino with jobs are "vulnerably employed," she said. This is based on latest data produced by the ILO under the program "Alternatives to Migration: Decent Jobs for Filipino Youth," which it implements with the Labor department, the International Organization for Migration, UNICEF and UNFPA. Vulnerable employment, Georget said, is characterized by "inadequate income, low productivity and difficult working conditions." Georget thus urged the government to not only address unemployment but to "also look at the issues surrounding it." "Instead of focusing on economic growth, we should strive for growth which generates high-quality jobs," she said. This, as she noted that recent economic growth is highly attributed to a boom in services, which includes the informal sector. "Agriculture, which remains to be the highest job generating sector has been posting weak growth," Georget said. Meanwhile, the government should also address the jobs-skills mismatch by ramping up reforms in the education sector, she noted. "The K to 12 program is a step in the right direction as it prepares students to take on either higher education or technical and vocational (tech-voc) courses," Georget said. Adding two years to the basic education cycle, makes high school graduates eligible for technical-vocational courses as long as they are 18 years old. Georget noted, however, that such efforts should be matched by a change in the perception of tech-voc education as "the next best option but rather the other option." Private sector participation should also be encouraged in order to provide "meaningful on-the-job training to students," she said. "This will ease the transition from school to work," Georget added. ..