How can jobs increase if production is declining?

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Job growth is one of the fantasies being conjured by Rodrigo Duterte’s economic officials to hide the destruction brought about by the lockdowns imposed without stimulus aid and the regime’s failed response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Duterte regime boasts of an additional 1.5 million jobs in the agricultural sector in 2021 despite the sector plunging by 1.7%, even lower than 2020’s contraction of 1.2%. In fact, this year’s agricultural growth is lowest in the past two decades.

According to Ibon Foundation’s research, agricultural production declined by 0.5% in the 2019-2021 period. But during the same period, the sector’s employment rate rose by 15.1%. If this were true, this means the average output of each farmer and farm worker declined by 13.5% during this period.

In 2021 alone, all agricultural subsectors except crops declined. The biggest contraction is in livestock (17% in 2021 compared to 7.4% in 2020). Poultry and fishing have yet to rebound.

According to peasant organizations, agriculture contracted due to restrictions imposed in the name of the pandemic, declining demand due to wage and income loss, and unrestricted importation which has pushed down farmgate prices. In September 2021, agriculture lost almost a million jobs. It is questionable that the lost jobs were recovered, and moreso, that employment even increased during the last quarter despite typhoon Odette’s destruction in December 2021. Damage to agriculture due to the typhoon is estimated at ₱11.7 billion.

Increased employment in the wholesale and retail sector is also doubtful. According to state data, 1.4 million jobs were created although the sector grew by a mere 4.3%. This means that output of each worker declined, and as such, also their wages.

In the manufacturing sector, the claimed 3.4 million jobs is still 266,000 lower than prepandemic levels. Current employment in the transportation and storage, accommodation and food service sectors is still lower compared to 2019.

“The number of unemployed persons is still higher by 3.2 million on November 2021 compared to January 2020 before the pandemic hit,” according to Ibon. In addition, jobs generated in the last two years have been informal and low paying and low income.

Employment figures were released in relation to the Philippine gross domestic product which rose to 5.6% in 2021, up from -9.6% in 2020. In reality, this is still far below the claimed average of 6.4% GDP growth in the last 10 years before the pandemic.

“The economy is still smaller by 4.5% in 2021 compared to 2019,” according to Ibon. This is a direct result of the restrictive lockdowns that were not accompanied by financial aid which would have increased households’ purchasing power of their basic needs and would have mitigated the crisis,” according to the group. There was also no subsidy for small and medium enterprises which would have helped them survive.

The rapid growth at the end of 2021 will be temporary, according to the group. “It will probably be reversed by the first quarter of 2022.”

How can jobs increase if production is declining?