MANILA, Philippines - Despite Malacañang’s disbelief, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said it found "highly credible" the results of a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey indicating that joblessness among adult Filipinos may have hit a record high of 34.2 percent in the last three months.
"The country lost a total of $7.615 billion worth of exports from October 2008 to February 2009. At $1: P48, this is equal to P365.52 billion in sales that suddenly vanished," said TUCP secretary-general and former Senator Ernesto Herrera.
"The P365.52 billion is equal to slightly more than one-fourth of this year’s P1.414 trillion national budget. And we lost the sales not in 12 months, but in six months," Herrera pointed out.
"This alone should give us a fair sense as to the severity of the job losses in the export sector as well as other industries providing goods and services to exporters and their workers," added Herrera, former chairman of the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development.
Herrera said nobody really wants to talk the economy and jobs down. "Everybody would prefer to talks things up. But the reality is, the world is in a harsh economic downturn not seen since the Great Depression. And there is no escaping this reality," he said.
Still, Herrera said he has high hopes the economy, exporters and employment would be able to recover once the global recession ends. He said the first to mend would be exporters that "over-retrenched" their staff.
"Once foreign orders start trickling in and exporters realize they no longer have the workers required to meet demand, they will start rehiring quickly," he said.
In the meantime, Herrera said TUCP is helping the Department of Labor and Employment carry out "skills retooling and alternative livelihood support programs" for displaced workers as well as new labor force participants.
Last week, the National Statistics Office reported that Philippine exports, led by semiconductors and electronics, crashed by 30.9 percent in March to $2.9 billion compared to the $4.2 billion posted in the same month in 2008.
Prior to this, exports plunged by 39.1 percent in February to $2.504 billion from $4.112 billion a year ago; by 41 percent in January to $2.494 billion from $4.230 billion; by 40.4 percent in December to $2.672 billion from $4.481 billion; by 11.9 percent in November to $3.494 billion from $3.964 billion; and by 14.9 percent in October to $3.967 billion from $4.659 billion.
The First Quarter 2009 SWS survey, fielded over Feb. 20 to 23, found joblessness rising to 34.2 percent or about 14 million Filipino adults, from 27.9 percent or some 11 million in the prior quarter.