Why Is It Really Harder to Find a Job in the Philippines this 2021?
There are a lot of fresh graduates that came out of college and high school this year who are now out to seek for a job to jumpstart their “careers.”
Unfortunately, with COVID-19 already inside our gates and the almost month long lockdown in critical cities, many Filipinos find themselves grasping at straws to seek decent work.
Here are the top 10 issues that they are encountering at the moment:
1. Many companies have freeze hired, retrenched or closed down over the challenging COVID-19 filled year.
This means, jobs are more difficult to find nowadays since companies are not really hiring, and are instead, firing.
A clear rule of thumb in managing the business is that you always have to make payroll. Hence, if you can’t predict the future, you don’t hire additional labor. Even hiring/maintaining one headcount gives a company immense burden if their revenues are uneven, the clients are closing down or pulling out, and the future is uncertain. That’s why many companies are not hiring in lieu of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Businesses are under in a lot of pressure to keep their doors afloat. Many have failed. I personally know a lot of awesome restaurants who were on sale, and ultimately closed down in 2020/2021 because their landlords were still charging them 50% to 100% rent during the lockdown.
Even the famous 5-star Makati Shangri-La was forced to closed last February 2021 after 30 full years of memories when landlord Ayala would not budge on the Php 300 million annual rental (Php 25 million per month).
“The Shangri-La group decided to close because they have a P300 million annual lease to Ayala Land. The group believes this (pandemic) will last 12 to 18 months before any significant improvement. They just couldn’t afford to pay the annual rent and pay its staff in view of the dismal earnings,” said the Babbler.
Every little bit counts, and with the additional 2-week and possibly counting lockdown in key cities in the Philippines, the Philippine unemployment has risen to 8.8% in February 2021.
A. Evidence shows that more Filipinos are sticking to their jobs or are actively seeking employment.
The Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR) increased to 63.5% in February 2021, the highest LFPR reported since April 2020 (Table A), numbering an estimated 47.3 million Filipinos 15 years old and over who are either employed or unemployed.
Since LFPR is the percentage of Filipinos aged 16 years and older that is working or actively looking for work, the higher rate of 63.5% shows that many Filipinos do actually want to work, and are actively seeking work. There’s just not that much work to share around.
B. Many Filipinos are Working Less than their Prescribed Hours Per Week. This shows many Filipinos are under Flexible Work Arrangements (FWA).
From those who were employed in February 2021, 7.9 million Filipinos are classified as underemployed. This was higher than the reported 6.6 million underemployed Filipinos in January 2021.
Underemployment means that an increasing number of Filipinos have expressed desire:
- To do additional hours of work in their present job, or
- To take on additional jobs, or
- To have a new job with longer hours of work.
This figure increased from the reported 6.6 million underemployed Filipinos in January 2021. In terms of proportion, underemployment rate in February 2021 was estimated at 18.2%, which is worryingly higher than those reported in January 2021 (16.0 %), October 2020 (14.4 %), and July 2020 (17.3%) (Table A).
Among the underemployed persons, 12.5% were visibly underemployed or employed persons who worked less than 40 hours in a week and wanted additional hours of work. 5.7% were invisibly underemployed or employed persons who worked more than 40 hours in a week and who wanted additional hours of work (Table A).
C. More men are actively working or looking for jobs than women. However, they are working less hours.
Between genders, the LFPR was higher for men (76.0%) than for women (50.9%) in February 2021. A higher employment rate was also registered for men (91.6%) compared to women (90.5%).
However, men reported a higher underemployment rate (20.3%) than women (15.1%)
What Does this Mean for the Philippine Job Market?
This means it’s the employers’ market now, instead of the workers. Because of the high unemployment rate, there are more competition that’s faced by applicants when they look for work vs. companies who are hiring.Photo Credit: Nikkei Asia
Gone are the days when you could be pasaway and AWOL, and still be hired. Now, the market is flushed with applicants, and employers can pick the BEST applicants. Hence, applicants/graduates are pressured to work and push harder to get hired than than ever before.
2. Less People Quitting = Less Job Opportunities for the Incoming
Predictably, regular employees are wisely staying put in their jobs and not resigning, further limiting job openings.
What’s before, many regular employees resign in January after they have received their 13th month pay in December and their performance bonuses in the new year, given the economic uncertainty, many Filipino employees are staying put and are NOT resigning. A handful of my staff retracted their resignations last year. Wisely, many regular employees are adapting a wait-and-see attitude before making any drastic moves, career-wise.
Instead of letting their emotions guide their decisions, employees are now more cerebral when making career moves. Filipinos are asking and reflecting on deeper questions before making drastic moves.
Infographic Source: TopResumes.com
Whereas before, people would immediately huff and puff at the first whiff of unhappiness or job dissatisfaction, more Filipinos now take a break, think twice and reflect on whether changing jobs right now is worth it. For one, it’s hard to change jobs if you have no new jobs to replace the old one. And even if you found a new job, there is minimal job security as a probationary employee.
Fact of the matter is, if you are already a regular in a company, you’re a lot harder to fire. But the new guys, or those who are on probationary employment are easiest to let go.
On the flipside, it is so easy to fire a probationary employee if they are not performing excellently. Under Philippine labor law, employers can easily fire a probationary employee following a failed performance evaluation within their 180th day of employment. As the newest entrant in the company, probationary employees are usually the first to be let go. Companies can do it very quickly if they know how to do so.
Because the job market is so unpredictable today due to COVID-19, many employees wisely choose to keep quiet or retract their planned resignations and carefully observe what’s going on in the economy first.
As they say, “Tiis muna, at least may pera. Kaysa magresign, mawalan ng trabaho and magutom ang pamilya ko.”
Translation: It is better to stay put inside the company because at least you’re getting paid. The alternative is to resign, lose your job, and have your family suffer from hunger.
That’s why, if you’re the breadwinner, it’s better to stay put at your job. At the very least, it brings your family the regular bacon they need to survive.
Consequently, this regular-employees-staying-put trend has given new applicants less opportunity to come in. Pag walang umalis, walang bagong makakapasok (If nobody leaves, nobody new can come in). Hence, many applicants would just have to wait their turn until a slot opens up.
3. For those who managed to get a job offer, companies are offering even less salary and benefits to applicants than ever before.
This happens two ways:
- Employers are feeling the crunch and given their revenue set backs, have lowered their salary and benefit offers to incoming employees.
- For those who are currently employed inside the company, reduction of work days and weeks are becoming the norm.
As companies are still uncertain about the future, they have been more practical and pulled back on many of the benefits they’ve offered previously to old employees.
I know many companies who have dramatically reduced their signing bonuses, free food at work offers, generous offers of Vacation/Sick Leaves (VL and SL), allowances and salary. All of these add-ons increased employees’ take home pay in the past. Now, new entrants are dismayed to find out that such add-ons are no longer on offer when they’re given a Job Offer.
Moreover, for those who prefer a decent salary, new hires are dismayed to find out that many companies have adopted Flexible Work Arrangements.
The most popular Flexible Work Arrangement is the reduction of hours/days. Hence, instead of 6 days work, many companies are only offering 3-5 days work, which meant a 16.67% to 50% reduction in salaries.
I wrote about this in depth last August 2020 in HR Talk: What are the 9 Legal and Valid Flexible Work Arrangements Available According to the DOLE Bureau of Working Conditions:
Here were the 9 FWA options that’s allowed by DOLE:
Less Work = Less Pay just follows the logic of the No-Work-No-Pay, If-You-Work-You-Get-Paid rule.
The principle of no work no pay is the basic premise in determining employee wages. This is based on the premise that a person should be paid for a fair’s day’s wages for a fair’s days work.
This is supported by DOLE Labor Advisory No. 1, Series of 2020 which indicate that employers in the private sector shall, in the exercise of management prerogative may suspend work to ensure the safety and health of their employees during natural or man-made calamity:
- lf unworked – No pay. When the employee has accrued leave credits, he/she may be allowed to utilize such leave so that he/she will have compensation on said days.
- lf worked – No additional pay shall be given to the employees, only their salary on said day.
Hence, if you work a fewer number of work days and hours, you will definitely going to get paid less. We understand that. We are considerate of the concept. And yet, it still sucks when you’re at the receiving end of the deal.
4. Sourcing pre-employment requirements are becoming more of a hassle and expensive these lockdown-or-no-lockdown season.
Due to COVID-19 health guidelines and government restrictions, it’s becoming more challenging for applicants to acquire pre-employment benefits.
For example, it takes longer to schedule getting your NBI Clearance. Whereas before, it only took a few days to book a schedule, now it can take months.
What’s more, some employers are requiring new employees additional requirements BEFORE they are duly employed. For example, many ask new employees to submit a negative swab test at the employee’s expense before they start.
Later on, I would not be surprised if employers would require a COVID-19 vaccination record for their customer-facing staff. And while existing staff may think that DOLE Labor Advisory No. 3, Series of 2021, Guidelines on the Administration of COVID-19 Vaccines in the Workplaces, is there to protect them, employers have a loophole of asking for these additional requirements because the applicants are still NOT YET employed in the company and would have to secure these requirements if they want to be duly employed.
In addition, government agencies are increasingly running on unpredictable schedules. Government offices are now running on skeletal workforce, are on WFH or are temporarily closed because someone got COVID-19 or because they’re slated for their regular disinfection.
SSS has stopped the application and issuance of the SSS UMID ID for months, leaving many applicants grasping on how to get a primary ID. Registering in SSS, Philhealth and Pag-IBIGcan also be a huge inconvenience. Many branches do not accept walk-ins and most government agencies are asking Filipinos to transact online, a harder thing to do when you’re a first time job applicant and fresh graduate.
For example, these were only posted last week at the SSS and Pag-IBIG Facebook Pages:
The list goes on and on. It just shows that job seekers won’t really have that much of an easy time getting their pre-employment requirements than ever before.
5. If you’re pregnant, a senior citizen or a person with co-morbidities, you’re considered as a Most-At-Risk Population (MARP) and your employment opportunities are limited.
I wrote about this in detail on my last blogpost, HR Talk: 8 Questions from the DTI and DOLE Supplemental Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of COVID-19. Long story short, the Joint Memorandum Circular 20-04-A, Joint Memorandum Circular No. 20-04, Series of 2020 (DTI-DOLE Joint Memorandum Circular No. 20-04-A-3) reiterated that high-risk people who include the following:
- Senior citizens
- Pregnant women
- Individuals with underlying health conditions
- Those below 21 years old
Should be placed at WFH (Work from Home) arrangements if possible. If they are asked to report, they must first provide a Medical Certificate of Fit to Work and can only stay a limited amount of hours in the workplace.
If there’s no work to be done, then they should stay at home. Labor Law allows floating of up to six months for direct hires. If they work, they should get paid. If they don’t work, they don’t need to get paid. In other words, this is not a good time to get pregnant.
The problem is, if you’re pregnant or have a sickness, you’re most likely looking at a big future financial expense and would want to look for work while you are still strong and able. If your OB did not order you to do bed rest, many pregnant Filipinas would still choose to work in order to save money for the birth and the baby.
This poses a problem when the government requires you to stay at home most of the time. Most employers need a staff who can report to the office, and if you’re pregnant and unable to report full-time, then those who can would be more prioritized when it comes to recruitment.
6. WFH is increasingly not a reliable option of employment. Applicants are now being asked to report to work by employers, a hard decision to make if you’re pregnant, living with a senior citizen or is a person who is co-morbidities.
After experienced WFH for half the year, given a choice, many workers now prefer to choose a Work-From-Home type of employment if they are to choose a new job. The benefits of WFH for employees are numerous as follows:
- You don’t have to spend money and time in traffic to commute to/fro work. This is a big load off your back.
- You can work conveniently anywhere, even in your home province. Hence, you can be relaxing on the beach, and still get work done.
- You can work in your pajamas, and so long as you’re video is off, nobody would know.
Photo Source: SSKait Twitter
- Many employers are paying additional allowance for electricity and internet, which is shared by your family members.
- You can squeeze in time with family and errands in between the hours, depending on your diskarte.
- Because of the lack of people looking other your shoulder, you can insert other work and take on another job without your boss knowing.
- You can get away with earning a little more money by pretending that you’re offline or have bad internet connection, and still logging the time where you do not work as work or overtime. You cannot do this when you report in the office.
- If you’ve committed an offense, it’s harder for your line manager to call you in the office to correct your mistake, or for the HR manager to discipline you. You can always pretend you did not receive the message.
- You can work following your schedule, unlike in the office where you’re stuck to a 9-hour schedule (inclusive of 1-hour lunch break). This gives you a lot of leeway of spreading work out and adding many non-work affairs in between.
- You save a lot less time in dealing with colleagues drama since you can always pretend you’re listening even if you’re not by saying your video camera is broken.
Unfortunately, many employers have caught on the workers’ shenanigans over the last year, and are now becoming wiser. As a result, many employers in 2021 have asked their workers to return back to work and physically report to the office.
Here’s an article by RingCentral, WFH Fails: Why These Companies Cancelled Remote Work, which shows that this phenomenon is not just limited to the Philippines.
RingCentral.com shared with us the story of FIVE companies who have so far cancelled remote working—and what we can learn from them:
- StatusPage: Remote work isn’t for everyone
- Yahoo: Less innovation
- Best Buy: “Too much freedom”
- RLM Public Relations: Work from home became slack off from home
- Reddit: Lack of coordination
Their stories are NOT unique.
Many companies, both here and abroad, have discovered over the year that while it might sound good, WFH does not work for them. Even WFH Pioneer, Google, is currently asking their employees to physically return back to their office ahead of schedule.
The reality is, many employees both here and abroad really took advantage of the WFH opportunity and did not perform their best despite being given the opportunity to work at home. Employers have now realized that risks of WFH, which by the way is a privilege and not a right, far outweighs the benefits.
And who can blame them?
I have heard many stories of employees who played hooky and went grocery shopping in between duty hours (They were able to get away with it by placing a brick on their keyboard to make it seem they were typing). Many started late, fulfilled other duties, and then filed for overtime even though they technically did not work for 8 hours. Others demanded to be reimbursed for electricity and internet even though they were able to share their usage with their family, their extended family and their neighborhood.
This is why many companies now insist that workers report to the office. Coordination is easier. Disciplining is more immediate. And there are less instances of worker abuse and employee-employer misunderstandings.
As many workers had been spoiled by their employers allowing them to WFH and them working less, applicants now have to make a difficult choice on what they would prioritize — Will they actually report back to work, or refuse. And can they get away with NOT reporting to the office?
Sadly, the Philippine labor law is on the employer’s side on this one. Employees have very little choice but to report back to the office if instructed by their bosses. And if they refused to report to work, they can be terminated for just causes following due process.
The losers are now those applicants who legitimately prefer a Work-from-Home (WFH) position since they are living with people with are senior citizens and co-morbidities. Those who prefer to work remotely or are keen to find WFH opportunities discover that such options are now more limited nowadays, much to their dismay.
7. It’s more of a hassle to travel around to find a job when there’s a lockdown/curfew/government restrictions.
Applicants today may find it harder to get to interviews due to more limited transport and unpredictable lockdowns. Specifically, they are boggled by the following transportation-related challenges:
- Due to job scarcity, applicants may discover that decent work opportunities may be further from their house than before. Available jobs may not be as close to their homes as they would like.
- Curfews, and government restrictions severely decrease the convenience of using public transportation. Many workers find themselves waiting too long for an available bus/jeep, causing them to be late to work or to come at home.
- You have to wait longer for a bus/jeep/taxi since there are now restrictions on the number of travelers allowed inside the public transportation.
- Alternative convenient mode of transportations such as Angkas, Joyride and Moveit face headwinds as government has come up with the most ridiculous policies on protecting customers from getting COVID-19.
The April lockdown also did not help as it dramatically disturbed many company’s schedule of recruitment. What’s worse, due to these restrictions, many public transportation operators have increased their fares, which decreases Filipino’s incentive to actively keep a job.
8. Many recruitment are now done online, which comes with its own sets of limitations.
Recruiting online comes with its own sets of challenges for both employer and job applicant.
Photo Source: List of Philippine Job Hunting Sites, Rappler, June 2019.
Problem 1: Goodbye (For Now) to Face-to-Face Job Fairs!
Remember the days when you can squeeze your way into job fairs and have the chance to make a good impression with the recruiter in the hopes of having an advantage to being hired? I remember the days when recruiters from the largest MNCs would visit the college campus to market their companies, and you can ask as many questions you want to your hopefully future employer.
Well, those days are gone.
Mass gatherings are currently prohibited and job seekers are discovering that their mode of job hunting have been severely limited to either traveling to an office given the above-mentioned restrictions in terms of transportation and convenience, or doing it online — which sucks if you have bad luck, bad equipment, and bad internet. It also opens applicants up to more scams since recruitment and payment of dues are done online.
Problem 2: Filipinos Face Bad Luck, Bad Equipment, and Bad Internet
According to this 2015 article published by FasterInternetPhil Blogspot, Faster and Cheaper Internet in the Philippines, the Philippines boasts of one of the more expensive internet services in the region:
Photo Source: Faster Internet Phil Blogspot, 2015.
Despite the higher price an internet is using, the Philippines suffer from slower bandwidth.
I know the data is outdated, but half a decade later, the conditions have not really changed as much. Even in 2021, the internet is still expensive and the data bandwidth is slow, which makes it a hassle for job seekers who need to remotely do their job hunting and “interviews” over the Internet.
Problem 3: Recruiters Have Bad Experience Recruiting Remotely
Here are the most common complaints Filipino recruiters have on applicants nowadays:
- “There were difficulties in her finding a PC, phone or scanner for her to show up in the interview. How can I hire her if she can’t even be available on Zoom?”
- “Her internet connection was slow and unstable. I could not clearly hear a word she was saying.”
- ” He did not have a video camera. All I can hear was his voice. So I can’t see him and give an accurate assessment while he’s interviewing.”
- “She was not prepared or presentable. Nakasuot ng bistida, walang makeup, and she looked like a labandera.”
- “The environment was noisy with dogs barking and people going in and out distracting the interview. I could not concentrate on what he’s trying to say.”
- “The applicant took for granted the internet interview. She came unprepared, and answered softly. I could not hear her most of the time.”
- Missing pre-employment requirements: She could not even send the CV to me because she said she did not have a scanner, and there’s no electricity for her phone to take a photo.”
- “I keep on talking, but I don’t know if I’m getting to him or he’s just nodding his head. I think he don’t get it, but it’s so hard to explain over the internet.”
- “I want to keep the recruitment process and conversation confidential, but so many people are going around his house.”
- And of course, the ever popular, “The applicant did not show up to the scheduled interview. I waited for 15 to 30 minutes for him to show, but I could not reach him.” — Even when you do the interviews over the internet, people still don’t show up.
It’s hard to hire when you’re blind-folded.
When you’re doing the interview over the Internet, you will miss a lot of non-visual clues that help you make the right assessments. Many recruiters find it limiting and oftentimes dangerous to hire someone whom they have never even met. Everything was done online.
This is one of the main reasons why companies are now asking staff to report to the office. While we understand that we have to do many things over the internet due to the COVID-19 pandemic, often times, it does not work for employers. It’s really challenging to recruit when you don’t see the person face to face.
9. If the salary demand is the same, most companies will chose an older, more experienced employee over a fresh graduate, leaving the latter in the dust.
Given the more competitive job market and limited positions, experienced workers who had been displaced and fired are now lowering down their salary and benefit expectations, and are happy to just accept a job — ANY job. The reality is, when you don’t have money, desperation makes you do and accept things you’ve never had before.
The adage is true — beggars cannot really be choosers.
While still gainfully employed in a company, employees can at least expect that the company will still take care of them in times of crisis. Many employers have resorted to giving financial help or ayuda during last year’s lockdown, alleviating many of their employees’ suffering. Workers have the option to bale or do a salary loan with zero to small interest rates from their bosses during times of emergency.
You do NOT have these money sources when you’re unemployed.
For every day that a breadwinner that’s unemployed, his/her family still needs to eat, spend and consume. You don’t stop eating and spending just because you have no income coming in. No no no, without a job, expenses will continue to pile up. You will be forced to be in up your ears in debt. And in the Philippines, debt rates in the black economy ranges an average of 10% to 20% PER MONTH (Yes, it is that high. We call it 5/6).
So if your family is starving, you’ll take almost ANYTHING you can get so that you have food to eat on the table. Even if you’re a mid-level manager, you would still lower your pride, take on a lesser paying job, and probably take on a job you’ve never had before, just to make a buck.
Between a fresh graduate who is inexperienced and still needed to be trained vs. an more experienced worker, which one would you think a company would pick? For example, between a fresh accounting graduate with zero work experience and a 2- to 4-year bookkeeper, both of which are asking for Php 18,000 to Php 20,000, who do you think an employer would hire?
Of course employers would typically pick the one who is already raring to go and can be a ready asset to the company! That’s why, it’s a good tip now na you have to be aware on what you salary you will accept before going to an interview. I’ve had many fresh graduates who ask for a monthly salary of Php 16,000 to Php 20,000 just because their mothers think they are good enough for the job.
Newsflash: They are not.
And if we can’t lower down our salary expectations, then many of us will be left continually jobless unless we do.
10. Constantly failing at finding a job hurts your confidence, and disincentives applicants from looking for a job.
Job seekers’ falling confidence due to constant failure is probably one of the last, yet most important reason why it’s so hard to find a job in 2021. The reality is, it’s hard to keep on submitting your resume and waiting for a recruiter to call, if you’ve been doing it for a few months.
Look, it’s not easy to find a new employer amidst the pandemic. The truth of the matter is, Metro Manila has experienced multiple lockdowns over the span of a year, making job hunting difficult. They were as follows:
- 1st ECQ: March 16 to May 15 (2 Months), MECQ from May 16 to 30.
- 2nd: August 2021 for 2 weeks
- 3rd Lockdown: March 29 to April 11, 2021 (and counting)
During the lockdown, the head office is usually closed. Officers are operating on a skeletal workforce, and many are working from home. Any plans to interview are usually placed on hold until the lockdown ends and everyone reports to the office. Job hunters are sitting ducks at home, twiddling their thumbs as they wait for the lockdown to finish. Procrastination is a habit trap people easily fall into, so despite the lifting of the lockdown, many job seekers wait for a week to lift their butts and find work.
The mental stress of not being able to find a job can be heavy. It is a burden each job hunter will carry. The question is, How many rejections can you receive before you give up?
Rejections make you feel like a total loser. It does not matter where you are rejected from — but people saying no to you risks making you feel like nobody wants you, and you’re useless, unwanted and unloved. Family or spousal pressure for a man to look for a job can also increase the depression that comes with being rejected. When the wife starts to nag, all you want to do is escape your house to stop her from yakking.
The big problem is that recruiters can sniff defeated personalities and a lack of confidence. Nobody wants to talk to a job seeker who is a negatron because life happened. When recruiters interview you, they don’t really want to hear about how many failed interviews you’ve had, how hard life is for you, how your babies are crying for milk, how bitter you are against your previous boss, and how desperate you are for your job. Recruiters want to hear optimistic, positive and full of life stories, and not another version of Maala-Ala Mo Kaya.
Photo Source: GeekNative.com
Hence, if you want to look for a job, you really just need to perk yourself up. You have to shake off the sadness, depression, anger and bitterness and face every interview like it’s the most important interview of your life.
You also need to be open-minded that when you open yourself up to recruiters, it’s highly possible that you might not get the job, and THAT IS OKAY. I remember jobs where I had been rejected at and they were a blow, but if I was not rejected from these jobs, I would not have found the perfect job for me right after that.
Only you can defeat yourself IF you ACCEPT defeat.
Personally, I think that being a negatron will not help you find a job. Instead, it will deter you for actually getting a job offer. Complaining, crying, sulking and screaming will not get you what you want. Instead, take accountability for your fate, do something about it and NEVER GIVE UP.
The battle is only lost if you give up. Remember, all you need is just ONE JOB. And job hunting and recruitment are played like games of statistics.
When I was searching for a job, I did not apply to only 5 companies. Instead, I had a notebook right beside me, and wrote down all the jobs I applied for (so I do not forget), and applied for 100 different jobs that interest me. I would send out my resume to companies whose job openings I liked, and actively asked for help from my network.
Why should I only send my resume to just a handful of companies?
For one, for the companies I truly liked, so many people were already applying there. The chances of my resume getting noticed is lower. The solution? Send the resume everywhere. My logic was, Sending resumes to companies don’t take much effort. But if only one hires me, that’s a jackpot!
Job hunting can be a chore. It can also be a journey. For me, treat job hunting as a journey, don’t lose hope and just keep sending those resumes until one calls back.
Have a great day everyone!
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