Strong job market buoys Western Visayas economy

(Photo courtesy of ERS/file)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

The robust employment scenario is energizing Western Visayas’ economy as disclosed by the latest government statistics.

Results of the October 2023 Labor Force Survey reveal that the employment rate in the region escalated to 96.6%, higher by 1.7 percentage points than the 95.5% posted in October 2022.

This increase is seen alongside a labor force participation rate of 62.7% in October 2023, compared to 64.3% in the same period the previous year.

“I was able to land a job in a business process outsourcing company last month after months of searching,” shares Janice Padilla, 25, from Iloilo City. “The expanding industries in the region are opening more opportunities, especially for young professionals like me,” she adds.

The unemployment rate correspondingly dropped to 3.4% from 4.5% a year ago. The underemployment rate, however, remains an issue at 14.8% although lower than the 19.5% recorded in October 2022. The underemployment rate measures the percentage of employed persons wanting more work hours.

“My earnings from driving a pedicab is inadequate for my family’s needs,” reveals Carlos Santo, 38, and father to three children. “I want additional jobs but I can only work for limited hours due to my health,” he adds.


Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are also a vital economic lifeline in Western Visayas. According to labor market statistics, there are 84,000 female and 133,000 male OFWs from the region with active employment contracts abroad.

“I work as a domestic helper abroad to give my children a better future,” according to Marnie Tapales, 36, currently based in Hong Kong the past five years. “The pay and benefits are much better overseas. But I miss my family and hope to return for good soon,” Tapales added.

Based on the 2022 labor market analysis, males generally register higher employment and lower unemployment compared to females. But women disproportionately represent jobs in the services sector at 34.2% versus 13.3% for men.

“Most job openings I find involve sales and office administrative work which favor women applicants,” says Mary Grace Manalo, 22, a fresh Information Technology graduate. “My course is male-dominated but I’ll diversify my search parameters to improve my chances,” she recommends.

The distribution of employed persons by industry showed that the majority of males were employed in agriculture (43.4%), whereas a significant proportion of females were in the services sector (76.5%).

In terms of occupation groups, females predominated in professional (8.5%) and clerical support worker roles (9.8%), while males were more represented in skilled agricultural (16.6%) and plant and machine operator positions (16.5%).

However, the employment rates are relatively close, with men at 94.6% and women at 95.1%. Unemployment and underemployment rates for men were 5.4% and 17.7% respectively, while women experienced slightly lower unemployment at 4.9% but higher underemployment at 12%.

The average working hours per week also differed, with men working an average of 30.4 hours compared to women’s 27.9 hours. Age also played a role, with those aged 40 and overworking the most hours per week.