by Prime Sarmiento
MANILA, Oct. 3 (Xinhua) -- The Philippine economy remains resilient amid a global downturn but such growth failed to reduce the high poverty incidence in this developing country.
"GDP growth has accelerated to average 4.7 percent since 2000, but job generation remains inadequate, reflected in fairly rigid rates of unemployment, growing underemployment, and the continuous deployment of workers overseas," the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said in its latest Asian Development Outlook issued Wednesday.
The Manila-based lender has significantly reduced its 2012-2013 growth forecast for most of developing Asia, saying that after years of rapid growth led by China and India, the region is facing a prolonged period of moderate expansion on back of sluggish global demand.
The ADB has a more sanguine outlook for the Philippines. It upgraded this year's growth forecast for the Philippines from the previous 4.8 percent to 5.5 percent.
The ADB took into account the higher-than-expected 6.1 percent GDP growth in the first half and an expected moderate growth in the second half.
The ADB maintained its 2013 growth forecast for the Philippines at five percent.
But the ADB noted that poverty reduction and job creation remains a challenge for Philippine policy makers.
"Despite solid economic growth, job generation remains inadequate, reflected in rates of unemployment and underemployment, " Neeraj Jain, ADB's Country Director for the Philippines, said in a statement.
Jain said that poverty incidence remains high at 26.5 percent in 2009. This compared to 26.4 percent in 2006 and 24.9 percent in 2003. The Philippine government releases official poverty statistics every three years.
Data from the local census office revealed unemployment in the country is at seven percent, while 20 percent of the country's labor force are underemployed.
The ADB said that while the number of new jobs has grown by one million over the past year, this only reflects a rise in part time employment with 1.5 million positions created. Full-time jobs fell by 500,000 in the same period.
"Is creation of more jobs a concrete manifestation that growth is trickling down to the poor? Yes, of course. If you don't have a job how can you take care of your family?," Norio Usui, senior ADB economist, told reporters.
Usui notes that relying on services especially the outsourcing industry won't solve joblessness. Call centers, for instance, usually employs college graduates. But official data showed that most of the country's jobless only finished high school.