More Filipinos are back to work but in bad jobs—Partido Manggagawa

In reaction to news that unemployment has dipped to just 4.2% in November 2022, Mario Andon, coordinator of the Iloilo  chapter of the labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM), said that “Indeed, more Filipinos are back to work but in bad jobs.”

Andon insisted that “Quality as much as quantity of jobs is a concern using the International Labour Organization’s decent work framework as a lens.”

PM referred to the fact that while unemployment decreased from 4.5% in October, underemployment increased to 14.4% in November from 14.2% in October.

Also, the average weekly hours worked of an employed person in November 2022 went down to 39.3, from 40.2 in October 2022 and from 39.6 in November 2021.

Andon explained that “Government is boasting of the return of employment figures to pre-pandemic levels. Unfortunately, there is no comparable data for November 2019. But by October 2022, unemployment was at 4.5%, exactly the same rate as in October 2019 before COVID-19 struck. But while the quantity of jobs may have returned, the quality of jobs worsened.”

According to PM, more people were working part-time instead of full-time.

Underemployment—or the people wanting more hours of work—jumped from 13.0% in October 2019 or 5.62 million Filipinos to 14.2% in October 2022 or 6.67 million. This translates to more than a million Filipinos working as casual, contractual or informal in 2022 or a rise of 19% compared to pre-pandemic levels of underemployment.

“As part-time employees working as casual, contractual or informal, they would be suffering from lower remuneration, not enough benefits, less job security, lack of social security and unsafe working conditions. In other words, these employed but vulnerable workers in the post-pandemic context are still harmed by decent work deficits,” Andon expounded.

PM pointed out that a reflection of this phenomenon is the plight of delivery riders.

“No doubt, there were more of them as essential workers during the pandemic. But an upsurge of protests among delivery riders express the decent work deficits of Filipinos working as independent contractors rather than as full-time regular employees. Almost all of these protests originated from grievances over steep declines in incomes as apps arbitrarily cut their ‘commissions’ while the cost of fuel rose continuously,” Andon argued.

He pointed to the protest last week of Shopee riders and to last year’s mass actions of Grab riders in General Santos, Cebu and Pampanga, together with Grab cyclists in Metro Manila. Iloilo Grab riders also formed a union last November 2022.