More than half of Filipino workers use mostly general skills, study says

More than half of Filipino workers are using mostly general skills, according to a recent study of state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS).

Authored by PIDS Senior Research Fellow Connie Bayudan-Dacuycuy and De La Salle University Professor Lawrence Dacuycucy, the study found that around 62 percent of the country’s working population are working as service, clerical, and support workers; service and sales workers; skilled agricultural, fishery and forestry workers; and workers in elementary occupations.

They described the occupational skill sets of these workers as largely composed of social and basic skills and lower analytical skills.

“Some of these workers, such as bartender, clerk, waiter, cashier, beautician, bagger, weaver, cleaner, laborer, and room attendant, remain in demand. [They] have skill bundles that are general in nature,” the authors explained.

They also noted that this affects “the quality of jobs created that will likely be created in the economy”.

“This is worrisome given that developments in information and communications (ICT) have dramatically reshaped the world of work. Such developments have undeniably highlighted occupations that are geared towards more intensive use of ICT, data analytics, and high value-adding social skills,” the authors explained.

The study found that while these jobs remain in-demand in sectors including hotel/restaurant/tourism, wholesale and retail trade, and health and wellness, other sought-after jobs and top employment generators, such as the IT-BPM and manufacturing sectors, are looking to fill in positions with more analytical skills.

“These jobs include software quality assurance analysts and IT support staff. In agribusiness, there is a clear need for technical experts, managers, pathologists, biologists, engineers, and quality control technicians. Such occupations require highly specific skills,” the authors explained, adding that the same is true for hard-to-fill jobs.

Meanwhile, the study also found that the percentage of workers with tertiary education is higher for jobs with high levels of specificity.

In terms of gender, the study showed that female workers engaged in jobs that require highly specific skills are better educated than male workers. However, a higher percentage of tertiary-educated female workers are still engaged in jobs requiring low skills.

To address these gaps, the authors emphasized the importance of tertiary education in enhancing the readiness of the country’s future workforce. They underscored the role of higher educational institutions in providing learning environments that develop cognitive and noncognitive skills, which can enhance general and specific skills needed in the workplace.

Technical-vocational education and training (TVET) programs can also be leveraged, particularly for those who want to shift their career paths but do not have the necessary skills and training needed for the job.

“TVETs can craft training programs that are aligned [with] the needs of the industry, giving them the impetus to improve their facilities and resources accordingly,” the study said.

In doing so, there should be an adequate supply of qualified trainers who can serve sector-specific skill needs. According to the authors, TVETs can tap industry experts as trainers to increase their pool of competent ones.

They also recommended assessing the quality of jobs being created and ensuring that reskilling and upskilling programs are in place as these can facilitate workers’ upward occupational mobility.

For example, while ICT developments have increased the need for high value-adding jobs, these have also opened opportunities for workers that have jobs with general skills, such as motorcycle drivers and taxi drivers for ride-hailing services.

“A national upskilling program is imperative to ensure that these workers can participate in other market opportunities in the future,” the study said. (This report is based on the PIDS discussion paper “Labor Market Structures, Pay Gap, and Skills in the Philippines”)