BUDGET CUT HAMPERS YOUTH EMPLOYMENT PROGRAM
Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero warned against the adverse effects of a reduction in the bud-get of the government’s JobStart Philippines program, saying it will hamper efforts to address youth employment.
“There are pending bills in both houses of Congress that aim to institutionalize the nationwide implementation of the JobStart Philippines program to ensure funding sustainability. The program has barely taken off and it is already facing a possible budget cut,” said Escudero, former chair of the Senate Committee on Finance.
In a recent congressional budget briefing, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz disclosed that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has slashed as much as P218 million from the proposed budget for the implementation of its JobStart program.
From the P324 million funding request submitted by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the 2016 budget for JobStart went down to P106 million.
According to the latest preliminary figures released by the Philippine Statistics Authority on Sept. 9, unemployment hit 6.5 percent in July 2015, or about 4.33 million people.
Of the total jobless Filipinos, around 80 percent, or 3.46 million, are in the 15 to 34 age group.
Escudero said it was crucial to address the youth unemployment problem because it would solve a big chunk of joblessness in the country.
“I believe DOLE is on the right track. There is no reason it should not get the full support of the government,” Escudero said. “If you want to address the country’s unemployment rate, it makes sense to direct your resources and intervention to where it will have the greatest impact. Solve youth unemployment, and you cut down the country’s unemployment by half.”
JobStart is a partnership program of the DOLE, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). It aims to increase the employability of the youth by providing them access to technical and life skills training demanded by employers.
Through JobStart, the government aims to raise the employment rate of jobseekers aged 18 to 24 from 60 percent to at least 80 percent.
A cut in the program’s 2016 budget will not only erode whatever gains have been made but also cast doubts on the Philippines’ seriousness in reducing unemployment, stressed Escudero.
“It sends the wrong signal to our development partners, which may result in their loss of confidence not only in teaming up with us in this endeavor, but in future collaborations as well,” he added.
Launched in May 2014, JobStart will run until 2020.
The program has produced 601 graduates in its pilot phase. It targets the training and employment of 6,200 beneficiaries in 2016. It also aims to establish 24 new Public Employment Service Offices (PESOs) next year.
Job Start targets some 34 PESOs and 9,200 beneficiaries in 2017; 44 PESOs and 12,200 beneficiaries in 2018; 54 PESOs and 15,200 beneficiaries in 2019; and 64 PESOs and 18,200 beneficiaries in 2020. /MP