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Millions of grads. No jobs for grabs.

April this year (2018) the first batch of graduates of the Philippines' K to 12 program - theoretically work and world-ready - will be scanning the Want-Ads. Are there enough jobs at home or overseas?

Originally posted on April 8, 2018; updated April 8, 2018

Millions of grads. No jobs for grabs.

Almost 10 years ago, there were not enough college graduates.

The National Statistics Coordination Board (NCSB) said the number of college grads “has not risen fast enough, threatening the country’s supply of qualified human capital.”

The alarm was sounded when NCSB compared the number of college graduates over a 10-year period. The increase was only 481,862 in 2010 from 363,340 in 2001 the NSCB reported.

Just over 5 years later, the Department of Labor records show 656,284 college graduates out of 1.29 million job applicants competing for 4.23 million domestic and international job vacancies offered in all the job fairs in 2014 and 2015.

During those two years of job fairs, while the number of applicants increased the percentage of those hired decreased: Of the 487,640 applicants in 2015, only 135,59 were hired.  The year before 255,498 were hired out of 798,000 applicants.

The Philippines was able to increase its human capital, not just the qualified kind.

All the sectors responsible for human capital production and utilization agreed the problem is jobs and skills mismatch: a college diploma by itself does not mean being job-ready.  Tertiary education must be preceded by an extended secondary education similar to developing and developed countries.

Until 2016, Philippine high-school grads had a total of 10-year primary and secondary preparation to be a minimally competitive players in the labor market.  However, their counterparts in the ASEAN countries and country-destination for employment or migration have at least 12 years of secondary education.

In 2013, Congress enacted the K to 12 law which seek to elevate Philippine education to global standards while preparing graduates for “tertiary education, middle-skills development, employment and entrepreneurship.” 

However, it was only in 2016 that the first batch of students were admitted to the K to 12 program after the physical and academic infrastructures were laid out, including what was billed as nationwide intensive consultation with program partners, particularly the employer-industry sector.

April this year (2018) the first K to 12 program graduates are supposed to be job -ready for both domestic and international employment.

Apparently, the mismatch still remains- this time from the partner-implementors column of the K to 12 program.

Education Undersecretary Tonisito Umali admits employers are concerned about the non-readiness of graduates as the K to 12 program seems to emphasize work immersion but lack content. 

“Longer hours of training sacrificed the “minimum competencies or subjects—core, contextualized, specialized subjects—that they need to learn, and the work immersion component to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to really make them ready for work,”  the Philippine education official explained,

From the employers’ side, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Human Resources Development Foundation Inc. (PCCI HRDF) believes “the hesitance (of employers)  to hire fresh graduates may be due to the absence of the necessary skills and training that industries need but not yet provided by the current SHS program.”

The Philippine Business for Education (PBED), an advocacy group, said that while “the first batch of SHS graduates possess “theoretically” 93 percent of the competencies suitable to the needs of the nation’s industries…  only about 20 percent of 70 of the country’s leading companies across all sectors were inclined to hire senior high graduates.”

The reason?

Most employers prefer grads with at least 2 years college education.,  such as critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

This means the Tech-Voc pathway of the K to 12 program is not the essential answer to the skills-jobs mismatch: employers still prefer college graduates.

Hopefully, the K to 12 program would not result in increased underemployment in addition to a lingering jobs-skills mismatch.

Where the jobs are

Assuming the government and private sectors finally get their act together, where are the jobs for this year and succeeding batches of K to 12 graduates?

citizens equipped with the essential competencies, skills and values for both lifelong learning and employment.”.

The Philippine education official maintain that “right now… it is not just a matter of preparedness of our students for work. It is also about the preparedness of our economy to accommodate work.”

Let us revisit the official employment numbers:

  • National employment rate (in 2017) is 5.7 percent, up from 5.5 percent in 2016, according to the 2017 Socioeconomic Report of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
  • Youth unemployment rose to 14.4% under the Duterte administration.
  • The employment rate in January 2018 was estimated at 94.7 percent. In January 2017, the employment rate was 93.4 percent. (Philippine Statistics Authority, March, 2018)
  • There is an occupational surplus in the main employment destination for new K to 12 grads: (An occupational surplus or excess exists if there are more than ten (10) applicants per vacancy.
  • In which case, the abundance of applicants exists in the following industry sectors:
  • Information and communications industry, 19;
  • Manufacturing industry – 15
  • Electricity, gas steam and air-conditiining supply, 13
  • Wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, 10

The sectors with the highest number of vacancies or employment are in retail sales.

The final results of the 2015 Annual Survey of Philippine Business and Industry (ASPBI) “showed that a total of 98,675 establishments in the formal sector of the economy were engaged in Wholesale and Retail Trade; Repair of Motor Vehicles and Motorcycles nationwide.

Retail sale of wearing apparel, - except footwear- had the highest number of establishments (8,095 or 8.2 percent of the total); followed by establishments in retail sale of drugs and pharmaceutical goods (6,475/6.6%).

Establishments engaged in sale of motorcycles and their parts and components came in third with 5,489 or 5.6 percent. Retail selling in department stores hire and employ the highest number of workers in 2015: 1,008,210.  Of this number, 979,250 were paid workers.  The rest were working owners and unpaid workers.

From land to shining sea

The other sectors providing the highest number of job opportunities according to the same suvey in 2015 – and to date - are in the agriculture, forestry and fishing.

Total employment generated by agriculture, forestry and fishing establishments with 20 or more employees reached 145,237 in 2015. Of the total workforce, 143,732 workers or 99.0 percent were paid employees while the remaining 1.0 percent were working owners and unpaid workers.

Among industry groups, growing of perennial crops employed the most number of workers with 67,354 or 46.4 percent of the total. This was followed by growing of non-perennial crops and animal production with 34,698 workers (23.9%) and 18,669 workers (12.9%), respectively. See chart, below:

(Chart uploading...)

Where the jobs are in regions

Davao establishments employed the most with 41,608 followed by the Negros Island Region with 28,720.  Northern Mindanao came in third with 17,670 workers.

Theoretically, the job in retail sales and in the agriculture, fishing, forestry sectors do not require completion of K to12 program.  In real life, employers have the luxury of requiring applicants to have at least high school diploma. Those with college degrees or at least two years of college education are preferred.

Since a substantial number of job opportunities overseas (particularly for construction workers and laborers) in the Middle East put emphasis on skills than academic preparation, it is no wonder that 6,092 Filipinos leave daily for overseas jobs according to POEA data obtained by Migrante International. That was in 2015.

In 2017,  “employment creation remains a challenge as there were around 663,243 net employment losses,” NEDA observed.

Quo vadis, K to 12 graduates, this year and beyond?


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