DOLE: jobless persons in Region 12 less than 100,000

Ma. Gloria Tango, DOLE Region 12 director, said the April round of the National Statistics Office's (NSO) labor force survey showed that only 4.7 percent of the region's estimated labor force of 1.65 million are still jobless.

"That (unemployment rate) converts to less than 90,000 persons. It's still a considerable number but it's slowly declining," she claimed.

Region-12 covers the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Cotabato, Koronadal, Kidapawan and Tacurong.

Last year, the region recorded around 94,000 unemployed persons or 5.9 percent of the 1,601,000 persons counted as part of the area's labor force, according to the NSO's April 2006 labor force survey.

But of the 1.507 million persons who were employed, which converts to 94.1 percent, NSO reported that at least 400,000 or 27.3 percent were listed as underemployed.

Tango said a big number of those who are unemployed are fresh graduates of various colleges and universities in the region.

"This is a big problem for us right now. Not all of these new college graduates can immediately be employed because of job mismatch," she said.

Tango said most of the region's new college graduates either finished courses that are not in line with available jobs in the market or lack the necessary skills and other qualifications.|

She said the jobs they considered "hard to fill" as of this time are those in the booming cyberservices industry such as medical transcription, call center agents and software development.

She said these "sunshine industries" need a lot of workers but they only get a few qualified applicants.

Tango said the other the priority sectors or industries that presently need more workers as identified by the country's human resource managers during the National Human Resource Conference last April are the hotels and restaurants, health, wellness and medical tourism, maritime and construction.

"These are the sectors here and abroad that need workers but at a given time could not get enough qualified workers," she said.

She said the available jobs in the listed priority sectors require "very specific skills" and proper government accreditation or certification "but you don't have to be a college graduate to get them."

She cited the example of some of the Filipino baristas or coffee mixers and tour guides who are now reportedly making a fortune in Europe. Baristas reportedly earn at least 1,000 Euros a month or roughly P63,000.

To fix this problem, Tango said they have started to coordinate with the academic sector in a bid to align the courses offered by colleges and universities with the needs of the industries.

She said they also tied up with some technical and vocational institutions to help enhance the standards of the training they offer to align the competence of their graduates with the skills required by the industries of job market.

On August 7, Tango said DOLE-Region 12 will conduct a regional workshop and consultation on worker's productivity and competitiveness to determine strategies that will help improve the quality of the region's pool of workers.

She said the workshop will gather decision-makers from the mainstream academe, technical-vocational education sector, leaders of various industries, local government units and concerned government agencies in the region.

"We will sit down together and plan out how to fill these gaps in the job market and eventually mount the necessary responses here in the region," she added. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)