The Philippines is a signatory to the Asian Decent Work Agenda (in its third cycle in 2010), which has five areas of concern: (1) competitiveness, productivity and decent jobs in a globalizing context, (2) the Millennium Generation decent jobs for young people, (3) managing labor migration, (4) labor market governance for realizing decent work in Asia, and (5) extending social protection to the informal economy.
Why invest in the youth? How will the youth contribute to nation building? When young people are able to actualize their talent and potential and are productively-employed they lift per capita income, and as they grow older, accumulate and utilize wealth, they contribute to higher national income. This is the statement in the 2009 youth study conducted by the ADB, entitled A Squandered Talent. The study contains eye-opening information of the state of Filipino youth employment in 2009:
1. Youth Population
Critical demographic data of the youth are lumped by the National Statistics Office into the ’15-64′ age group, which is rather useless as statistical reference in youth research but it beats me why NSO could disaggregate the youth population for fertility rate and number of emigrants and not for total population and other indicators.
ADB pegged the number of 15-19 year-old Filipinos at 30.8M and the 20-24 year-olds at 22.1M, or a total of 52.9M youth. In that year, the total number of Filipinos was 88.6M, which means the 15-19 youth comprised 35% of total population and the 20-24 year-old, 25% (or, on average 60% of total population). The youth bulge.
To classify the youth population, ADB uses six categories: students; non-wage salary workers; working non-poor; working poor; unemployed; NUEE (or, not unemployed, employed, or in education).
2. Youth Employment
In 2009, the youth comprised 21.79% of the labor force. Alternatively, the country’s youth unemployment rate exceeds industrial economies’ (12.7%) and the world’s (13.2%). Among the 15-19 age group, unemployment rate was 17.37% in 2009 and 33.29% among the 20-24 age group.
On the whole, informal employment among girls and women is higher. Young men registered a decrease in informal employment share in the period 1991/2006; girls and young women, an increase. Relative to adults, many of the youth were in informal employment.
Youth employment in agriculture has sharply declined in the period 1991/2006, mirroring the national trend. More 15-19 year old are employed in agriculture. In industry, a much slower decline is seen. More 20-24 year old are employed in the sector. Opportunities have grown in services hence the increasing number of youth employed in the sector. But according to ADB overall growth for the sector is checked by the proliferation of poor quality, low-wage and traditional jobs such as found in retail sales, low-end real estate, hotels, and restaurants.
Median wages have risen over time. In 1991/2006, youth and adults who did not complete any grade level started at more or less the same median wage, but the difference widens in proportion to the level of education attained. In 1991, the wage gap between youth and adults at the same education level was not that wide compared to the gap in the following decade, 2006. ADB offers two explanations: (1)Young workers accepted lower-paid jobs that did not equip them with the experience or skills commensurate with their education levels (e.g. call center agents); or (2) Demand for general and occupation-specific skills has been rising in new jobs. Employers come to attach greater weight to skills and less to demographic characteristics like sex, race, residence, and family background, rewarding higher wages to highly-educated, well-trained, and experienced workers, majority of which are adults.
3. Youth Joblessness
The jobless youth as defined by ADB are young people who are neither in education nor employment and who are not actively searching for work, or in other words, discouraged young people not in “useful” or “productive” activity. This captive group does not fit into the current statistical definition of ‘unemployment’ hence their exclusion from policies and programs. National figures for youth joblessness are relatively higher than in youth unemployment.
The youth experience joblessness differently because of certain factors: (1) Gender; (2) Location; (3) Age; (4) Educational attainment.
Young Women and Young Men (Gender)
On a national scale, joblessness figures for young women in the period 1991/2006 are almost triple that among young men. Girls and women continue to face gender-based challenges at home, from peers of the opposite sex, and adults in school, workplace, community, and society as a whole.
Young People in Urban and Rural Areas (Location)
Among the four Asian countries in the ADB study, the Philippines is unique in that there is more jobless youth in the country’s urban areas than in the rural. This is explained by the migration of young people from the rural into cities in the hope to find a better life.
Young Adults and Teenagers (Age)
Young adults (20-24) experience greater joblessness than teenagers (15-19), one reason offered by ADB was that most teenagers are in school. Among jobless young adults, their lack of lengthy experience and low levels of skills relative to older adults narrowed their chances of landing in and staying at work. Moreover, ADB found that young adults were not satisfied with their first jobs, which lends credence to an earlier separate study that says boys with secondary level education and with less than seven years of experience leave their first job 70% of the time.
The ADB study shows almost half (45%) of young adults aged 25-34 did not complete any grade level at all, while only 23% had tertiary education.