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Scarce jobs push Filipinos to seek work abroad

Despite strong economic growth, unemployment in the Philippines remains the highest in Southeast Asia.

MANILA: Despite strong economic growth, unemployment in the Philippines remains the highest in Southeast Asia.

The government admits it has not been able to meet its target of creating one million jobs a year, and is now hoping to create employment by drawing in more investments.

Eloisa Salvador, a 30-year-old single mother, will soon leave the Philippines to work as a domestic helper in Qatar.

She said that if she had a choice, she would rather work in the country instead of leaving her three children behind.

But after being jobless for eight months, Ms Salvador decided to try her luck abroad.

She will earn about US$200 a month in Qatar, which is below the average monthly wage in the Philippines – but to Ms Salvador, at least, it is still a job.

“As a single parent, I need to earn money to support my three children plus my parents, because I am the eldest in the family.

“It's very hard to find any job here. I am competing with fresh graduates and I don't stand a chance because I did not finish school,” said Ms Salvador.

Despite the country's high economic growth, more and more Filipinos are still finding it hard to find local jobs.

That is why thousands of Filipinos are lining up just to apply for jobs abroad at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

The Philippine economy grew at a better-than-expected 7.2 per cent in 2013, yet the unemployment rate, at 7.3 per cent, remains the highest in Southeast Asia.

Kelly Bird, principal economist at the Asian Development Bank, said: “Given its young population, with some 45 per cent of the population under the age of 24, the jobs that are being created are simply not enough to absorb the large number of job seekers each year.

“A major problem facing the Philippines is a mismatch of skills. A lot of young people who enter the labour market don't have the skills that employers need -- both in terms of technical and life skills. This reflects a very weak link between education and the training sector.”

Experts warn the youth employment crisis spreads beyond the borders of the Philippines.

The ADB said there needs to be more focus on training across Asia.

“There are a lot of reasons why we need to focus on the young, because if they are excluded from productive employment, then you create that vicious cycle of poverty and income inequality.

“It may also lead to social problems as well within the society, so it's important to assist these young people,” said Mr Bird.

The Philippines is now focusing more on creating a stronger industrial base to create
more jobs.

Its economic blueprint calls for a shift from a consumer-led economy to an investment-intensive one.

The hope is that the latest Standard and Poor's upgrade for Philippines will attract investments and will generate employment. 

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