School-to-Work (STW) Transition has been persistent in the Philippines, and this has translated to the country’s youth unemployment problems (Canlas, M & Pardalis, M., 2009) – specifically, there are 1.19 million unemployed Filipinos from 15 to 24 years of age (PSA, 2016). In response to this, the Philippine government started the JobStart Philippines Program (Republic Act 19689), which aims to raise the youth job placement rate from its current rate of 60-65% to 80%. The existence of this youth unemployment mitigation policy is justified. However, it reveals the complex backdrop that impedes Philippine youth unemployment.
Root Causes of Filipino Youth Unemployment
The reasons behind the slow STW transition can be understood both from the labor supply side and from the labor demand side. The labor supply side points to the experience of young people having limited social networks, inadequate life skills, lack of competence and work experience, expectations of high salaries, work schedule issues, preferences to work oversees, household duties, and tendency toward inactivity and staying home. It also involves the phenomenon of job-skills mismatch. On the labor demand side, the number of new jobs (500,000) created annually is inadequate for the number of new job seekers (800,000) attempting to enter the work force every year (ADB, 2015). There is a definite gap between labor demand and labor supply that has to be bridged.
JobStart Program in a Nutshell
It is against this backdrop that the Philippines’ Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) crafted the JobStart program (abbreviated from hereon as “JSP”) that was eventually made into law, the Republic Act 10869.
The JSP has three crucial stages: Life Skills Training (LST), Technical Training, and Internship. The LST is a ten-day training centering on proper work behavior and values that help the jobseekers cope with the unfamiliar working world. The technical training is technology-based instruction employing both lecture and hands-on exercises in a workshop. It may span up to three months, depending on the existing skills and competencies of the student. Lastly, the internship lasts three months.
Challenges to Face
There are myriad challenges specific to the program implementation. At the institutional level, the greatest deterrent could be the fact that the program is not the priority of the president and/or local government units. The Department of Labor and Employment also lacks capacity when it comes to provision of employment support facilities for the young jobseekers. In addition, there are reported glitches in terms of the organizational management, including delays in the technical trainings and internship opportunities.
At a micro-level, it is worth looking at the circumstances of the program beneficiaries. There were many instances when the unemployed young people themselves were unable to take advantage of the program due to family-related issues (e.g. the need to take care of their sick family members, parents not wanting them to work, etc.) and plain lack of motivation. There is a weak pursuit of excellence in their community that makes these young people unappreciative of the program.
The Governance Reform Framework proposes to examine five components in order to effectively bring about key reforms in the government: 1) institutions, processes and procedures; 2) leadership and political will (duty bearers); 3) values, mindsets and paradigms; 4) citizens’ engagement (claim holders); and 5) communication.
As to the institutions, it is recommended that efforts be more exerted in terms of smoothing out the organizational skills of major agencies involved. There are instances in which there were delayed trainings and internships, and these discouraged the JSP participants from continuing with the program.
In terms of leadership, it may not be expected of the incumbent president to prioritize youth employment, but this item can be included on his agenda. The major priorities of the president revolve around facilitating ease of doing business and accelerating public infrastructure spending. These translate to creation of new jobs, and it is through this angle that youth employment opportunities can be generated.
Changing mindsets and values may truly be difficult. A ten-day span of Life Skills Training is too short a time for youth to truly integrate the values they have learned. The participants may just continue with their previous mediocre and idle outlook on life. Hence, collaboration with parents and with the barangay (community level) may be explored. Life Skills Training can be extended even during technical training and the internship period.
Citizens’ participation may also be helpful in making the JSP successful. Non-government organizations (NGOs) can team up with the barangays to carry out the Life Skills Training, and this can also jumpstart the favorable perspective and cooperation of the parents with regard to the program.
Lastly, communication is considered salient to bring the communiqué down to all agencies and stakeholders involved, taking into consideration the appropriate amount of information that is needed to share with each agency/stakeholder. Effective communication has to be undertaken in order to avoid delays in the program implementation.
To conclude, in order for the JobStart Philippines Program to emerge as an effective mitigation program of the Philippine government vis-à-vis youth unemployment, continuous synergy has to be exercised among the involved agencies and stakeholders.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maria Pilar M. Lorenzo has recently finished her coursework in the Master of Public Administration from the University of the Philippines. She works as a Director for the Center for Leadership, Communication and Governance Research and Consultancy Institute (CLCGI) and a Researcher for the Philippine Society for Public Administration (PSPA), where she serves as well as the Managing Editor of their publication entitled Philippine Governance Digest. Her researches deal about citizen participation, youth unemployment, ethics, and governance. She is also a registered teacher and a licensed trainer.