Unemployment rate may spoil Davao Region economic growth

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/18 Feb) —  “Jobless growth”  is one of the major challenges” to the economy of Southeastern Mindanao, the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) said in its 2010 Davao Socioeconomic Output and 2011 Development Outlook Report.

The NEDA report warned that unemployment rate could impact negatively on the  regional economy this year and beyond if not sufficiently addressed.

“This phenomenon (“jobless growth”)  exists because the high level of investments has not been fully translated into productive employment,” said Maria Lourdes Lim, NEDA Region XI chief.

Unemployment figures rose to 5.9 percent last year, 0.3 percent higher than the record in 2009, the NEDA report showed.

The number of displaced workers rose to 2,471 with 512 of them  temporarily retrenched or permanently terminated due to economic reasons.

“…(It is) because of their companies’ decision to reorganize or downsize, while the majority or 1,959 of these workers were terminated due to non-economic reasons such as reaching the end of their contracts or completion of projects as in the case of construction workers,” said Lim.

In 2009, the NEDA recorded only 1,369 displaced workers.

In an effort to address the dilemma, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)-XI said they have facilitated placement of jobs, through, their “Jobs Fair Program” and referrals to walk-in clients of their Public Employment Services Offices (PESO)

The program was deemed a success last year as it provided jobs to 31,275 applicants, according to DOLE-XI.

DOLE-XI has conducted four job fairs in February and is set to hold three next month in the cities of Digos, Tagum and Davao.

The region was unable to provide full employment as indicated by its underemployment rate of 23.9 percent, 2 percentage over the same period last year, the NEDA report said.

Labor Force Participation, which refers to individuals who are either employed or not employed but actively looking for a job, was pegged at 65.5 percent in July, a decline of about 0.6 percentage points over the 2009 level of 66.1 percent.

Lim said the infusion of more investments in the region that will translate to or sustain productive employment is still wanted, as reflected in the region’s employment rate at 94. 1 percent.

Other “major challenges” in the regional economy, according to NEDA report, include sluggish growth in agriculture sector, narrowing trade surplus, increasing price of oil in the world market and flat growth in the tourism sector despite the region’s reputation as the preferred destination and a retiree’s haven.

In the first three quarters last year, the Department of Tourism (DOT) Region XI recorded 671,603 visitor arrivals.

“This figure reflects a sluggish growth of 1 percent over the same period the previous year,” said NEDA, quoting the DOT.

A slight decline in the number of domestic travelers was noted while the number of overseas Filipinos and foreign tourist inched up, according to the DOT regional office.

The tourism sector earned the region P8.2 billion in tourist receipts, almost the same level as two years ago at P8.1 billion.

In Davao City, a senior investment and promotion official said the city’s tourism industry is poised to take off to greater heights this year as the city government in partnership with the Department of Tourism and private sector vows to embark on a more aggressive tourism promotions program.

“Emphasis will likewise be given to the improvement of the city’s frontline services, particularly in the areas of tour operations and tour-guiding,” said Davao City Investment and Promotion Center head Jason Magnaye. (Rico Biliran/MindaNews).