Press Release
May 13, 2009


The Arroyo administration should address the unemployment problem squarely instead of using as an excuse the semantics of the definition of unemployment as recently reported by the Social Weather Stations (SWS), opposition Sen. Chiz Escudero said yesterday.

"Unemployment, by any other name, is still joblessness, and it speaks loudly of the failure of government to put up adequate policies to address to the problem. The reality is that there is widespread and increasing unemployment," he said.

The SWS, in its 2009 First Quarter Survey, said unemployment in the country reached a record high of 34.2 percent in February. This means an estimated 14 million Filipinos are now out of work, the SWS said.

Escudero said the government must work harder to address this problem and ease the plight of our workforce. This, he said, can best be done if government is able to attract investments by adopting stable, predictable, and conducive policies.

"The government has to improve market and raw material access through infrastructure. It also needs to improve human capital skill levels which can be addressed by solving the education mismatch problem," he said.

"On top of this, the government needs to practice good governance, particularly in rolling out a transparent, level playing field with clear rules. These are the key to creating meaningful and lasting jobs," Escudero added.

"It is convenient to claim as 'mere perception' the data on rising joblessness. It would do well for Malacanang to snap out of denial, buckle down to work, and find real solutions to the very real problem of unemployment," Escudero said.

He noted that the task of addressing unemployment becomes more urgent following reports that the number of overseas Filipinos who have lost their jobs is rising. These Filipinos are expected to come home in the coming months.

"The scenario here in the country is already dire. The projection becomes even bleaker when you factor in the unemployment numbers in countries where there are Filipino workers. We may come to a tipping point when our overseas workers start coming home. When that happens, can Malacanang still claim 'perception?'?" Escudero said.

Major manufacturing companies recently laid off thousands of workers in the aftermath of the global economic meltdown.

Intel Corp. is shutting down its Philippine operations, affecting 3,000 workers. Panasonic announced plans to shut down one of its facilities here while Fujitsu and Amkor Technology have laid off almost 5,000 workers, and Accenture announced a 50-percent cut in its workforce.

The government estimates that 935,700 workers are at risk of losing their jobs both locally and abroad this year. Over 362,000 jobs in the export sector are under threat -- 90 percent of those are in the electronics, garments and ignition wiring sub-sectors.

Data from various research groups also indicate that more than 500,000 overseas jobs are under threat. There are 129,000 temporary workers in recession-wracked US. Also in recession are South Korea and Taiwan, which, between them, employ 200,000 Filipino factory workers. Another 48,000 housemaids are employed in Hong Kong and Singapore, which are both contracting economically.

In addition, the government estimates that 130,000 seamen on cruise ships are facing layoffs. Japanese ship owners, according to Agence France Presse, have notified the government that more than 40,000 crew members on car carriers, bulk carriers and container ships will be laid off as world trade continues to slow.

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