The Philippines is widely acknowledged, within Asia, as having one of the most advanced labor codes in the Region, affording worker protection and the right to organize. This basic law is supported by institutional mechanisms and institutions designed to promote best practice in labor market governance.
State of the Labor Market
Employment and Decent Work Challenges
The fundamental story of the Philippine labor market is of a labor force growing faster than the economy can create jobs. Its sub-plots are in the statistics within a total population of around 90 million, 56.8 million are aged 15 years old and over. About 36 million are in the labor force, 21.9 (61.3 percent) million are men, 13.8 (38.7 percent) million are women, and over 11.8 million are between 15-30 years old.33.3 million are employed, 2.8 million unemployed, and 7.3 million underemployed.17.7 million are wage and salary workers, 10.4 million self-employed, 1.4 million employers, and 3.7 million unpaid family workers.10.8 million (over 30 percent) of the employed are laborers and low-skilled workers. 5.9 million more work as farmers, forestry workers and fishermen. Of the unemployed, 1.4 million (51 percent) are from 15 to 24 years old and over 2 million are between 15-30 years of age.
Greater participation of young workers in the labor force can yield a demographic dividend if their skills can be put to productive use and active labor market measures to promote continuous skills upgrading are in place.
Given high youth unemployment, and without adequate social protection, the young can become a demographic burden both in the short and the long run. Women remain under-represented in the Labor force, with just over 52 percent of those 15 years old or over participating. Overseas employment is in many ways a boon, but the “brain drain” issue should not be ignored.
By internal measures and external perceptions, employment and decent work challenges remains more compelling than ever. The Philippine Labor Index (PLI), a tool designed to measure progress in achieving decent work goals identifies specific labor market gaps. The index measures availability and acceptability of work in terms of opportunities for work and freedom of choice of employment.
The other dimensions pertaining to decency or quality of employment are expressed in terms of productive work, equity in work, security at work, and representation at work. The Philippines is also ranked in the lower middle range of international competitiveness by both the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) and the Doing Business Index (DBI).
While it has been argued that the GCI and DBI are more in the nature of perception indices, what cannot be ignored is that by external standards the competitiveness position of the Philippines is weak relative to other countries. This undermines its efforts to attract investments and to create employment.
Promoting and Securing Labor Market Rights
Scope of Labor Rights
Labor market rights pertain to access and opportunities to training and human resource development, labor market information, and employment mobility. These rights apply to pre-employment situations as well as to work-to-work transitions. They are also central to the success of an active labor policy. Under the terms of the PLI, labor rights cut across several dimensions of decent work, specifically opportunities for work, freedom of choice, productive work and equity in work.