Philippine govt urged to focus on job creation

Davao (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - The World Bank said the big number of unemployed and underemployed in the Philippines was the big challenge for the Aquino administration.

"The need for good jobs-jobs that raise real wages or bring people out of poverty-is an overwhelming challenge," Motoo Konishi, World Bank country director, told hundreds of local and international delegates to the Philippine Development Forum at the Marco Polo hotel here.

He suggested collaboration as a simple formula to address the situation. "We all need to collaborate a lot to ensure that all of our programs and assistance or policy reforms are filtered through the lens of the creation of jobs," Konishi said.

He said inclusive growth, which the conference was all about, meant addressing the need to create a total of 14.6 million jobs in the Philippines between now and 2016.

Konishi said there were 10 million Filipinos who were either unemployed or underemployed and another 1.1 million enter the labor force every year, or a total of 14.6 million jobs.

He said the domestic job market in the formal, services and manufacturing industries and employment opportunities abroad were not enough to absorb a lot of people getting into the labor force.

Konishi said all other sectors in the economy, particularly agribusiness and agriculture, must contribute more significantly to address joblessness and reduce poverty.

He made special mention of Mindanao as an island that urgently needed more jobs. "Job creation is more urgent in Mindanao as jobs contribute also to social cohesion," said Konishi, who is also co-chair of the PDF.

Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said that special focus should be given to priority economic drivers, specially employment, to meet the targeted inclusive growth of the Aquino administration.

Balisacan, in an interview at the sidelines of the opening of the two-day PDF, said the country's economic planners were giving "a big push to employment so growth will fully become inclusive."

He said the big challenge for 2013 was to focus on the fundamentals like employment so everyone could feel and experience the fruits of economic growth.

Creating new drivers of growth, particularly manufacturing, BPO, tourism and agribusiness, would create more quality jobs, he said.

In his speech, Balisacan said the government's initial estimates suggested that $3 billion in investments in BPO, tourism and agribusiness would create 621,000 jobs, both directly and indirectly through multiplier effects. Tourism, he said, could expand job opportunities in the countryside.

"To generate more and better employment, we need to simplify labor regulations to enable industries to adapt to the country's changing economic structure. We will also continue to address problems of skills mismatch," he said.

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