Global Unemployment

By Natalie Kavanagh

Natalie is participating in the Gold Global Citizen Award. This is the second of her Global Blogs from the Philippines. 


There is no denying that this is a serious global issue. Everywhere you turn your head there seems to be yet another newspaper article stressing how we are in an unemployment crisis and/or desperately asking how the government is going to solve this issue.

Junri one of the Badjao teachers teaching the class

Junri one of the Badjao teachers teaching the class

In Ireland and the UK, we are lucky enough to be able to access social welfare from the state, meaning that if we are unemployed, we can survive without having to go to extremes.  This system is sometimes abused by people unwilling to work while these benefits are accessible. However, do we ever stop to think what would happen if this unemployment aid did not exist? Imagine if we did not receive benefits, cheaper education, loans etc.

In Philippines this is a reality.  If you don’t work, you beg!  According to a survey conducted by the World Data Bank in 2012, a shocking 41.7% of Filipino people are living on less than $2 a day, falling below the poverty line behind many of the poorest developing countries. Here, the key barriers to employment seem to be the difficulty in progressing in education due to the financial fees that must be paid to pass your studies. Without this education how is anyone able to achieve the qualifications to get a “well paid” job?  One night while having a chat with my wonderful Cebuano host family about our aspirations for the future, I explained I wanted to be a teacher which was following by several “no’s” informing me that doctors and teachers are actually one of the less well paid jobs in the Philippines.  I should be a chemical engineer they said! I explained how in Ireland and the U.K to be a doctor or teacher is one of the most rewarding jobs and you get paid very well, which was followed by comments of that is how it should be.

It could be said that perhaps overpopulation is another barrier to employment. As you walk through the bustling, overcrowded streets of Cebu you sure learn to be quick on your feet!  Within this booming population, students appear to receive no education through the school system about family planning and sexual and reproductive health and rights.  Sex is a taboo subject in the Philippines.  The cycle continues when families are unable to afford the child’s education, leading on to the possibility of the child not receiving any sexual health education and information and then having their own large family and being unable to afford the education or housing. How can this come to an end? Can the government step in and do something about this?

Even when you walk into one of the massive shopping centres and see the hundreds of staff, it shows a little promise. However these working people are contracted workers and after five months they are let go again. Even before they are accepted for their jobs they must complete a few weeks of competitive training before getting paid. There is simply not enough jobs to compete with the severe overpopulation. Many of the wonderful Badjao tribe have their own businesses of selling pearls (they skilfully caught themselves in the sea), selling mangos and cloths. They have took it into their own hands not to settle for begging but to launch their own business ideas.

Badjao ladies selling fruit

Badjao ladies selling fruit

This confidence and entrepreneurship is encouraging. In a country where the company is so corrupt throughout all levels of the hierarchy, this optimism and attempts to earn own money is to be admired. Many of the Badjao tribe are currently trying to earn their own education with the help of the Presentation Sisters and the other partners. There are now currently six college graduates with an education with the number hopefully rising. Despite the discrimination they may face in schools, corruption and the daunting fees, it is well recognised that to get a decent paying job they must face the hardship.

There are many questions to address.  However there doesn’t seem to be any easy answers. Should a jobseeker allowance and courses be put in place to help the issue – or would it provide a new type of aid rather than dealing with the issue of unemployment in the Philippines?

In Ireland, we must open ourselves up to the wider world. Perhaps more education in schools surrounding these global issues would encourage us in the developed countries to campaign and advocate for these issues to be highlighted and resolved.

The new Sustainable Development Goals acknowledges unemployment as one of the new issues to be combated focusing on “decent work and economic growth.” Hopefully this is the first step to be raising awareness so we can all work together to find a solution.