President Aquino cites PHL’s demographic advantage in sustained economic growth

By Joann Santiago

MANILA, Oct. 14 (PNA) — President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday highlighted anew the advantage of having a young population vis-a-vis the growth of the economy.

In an interview by Steve Forbes Jr., at the sidelines of the Forbes Global CEO Conference in Solaire Hotel in Paranaque City, the chief executive said programs to support the youth, starting from education to employment, have been put in place to ensure its long-term effect on the country.

He stressed that the government wants a holistic approach in addressing the issue of quality education and job mismatch, thus, the introduction of the K-12 program, which increased from 10 to 12 years the basic education system.

He said part of this is the inclusion of high school students, not just elementary students, under the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program “to keep the children in school.”

“We graduated the first batch of those that we assisted last year, about over 300,000, and amongst that group – between 13,000-14,000 – were honor students who previously might not have been able to complete their education,” he said.

Aquino said they have also doubled the funding for skills training to be able to meet the industry requirements in terms of skills and labor force.

He said they have also put up a web portal dubbed phil-job.net to have an online list of available job opportunities in the country.

He disclosed that there was a month when job openings reached 200,000 but applicants only reached 100,000.

Thus, the stronger tie-up with industry stakeholders to address the problem.

Aquino noted that in the vocational sector alone, job placement rate, which the government defines as the time between graduation and finding a job and in this case is placed at a six-month period after graduation, in the early part of the current administration stood at about 28 percent.

He said programs to fix the education-employment gap has enabled the government to increase the job placement rate to about 71.09 percent.

“And in certain industries where the industry really partnered very well with us, took us up on the offer and cooperated very significantly, placement rate is about 92 percent currently,” he said.

One of the sectors that benefited from these measures is the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, which is now among the major growth drivers of the economy with revenues of a little over USD 19 billion to date.

Aquino said the BPO sector directly employs about 1.3 million Filipinos to date but also provides about 2.5 to three million indirect jobs.

He said the industry has resulted to growth not only of major economic centers in the country but other smaller areas in the countryside “at far greater rates than what was previously done by various other interventions.”

“So it seems that the Philippines has identified a niche and that we have the talent to be able to really populate and to really grow,” he said.

With people’s income rising so is consumption, which is also one of the country’s solid growth drivers, due also to remittances.

The Philippines has been posting higher growth rates in the last five years, with average placed at about five percent from three percent in the past.

This made the country one of the leaders in the region in terms of domestic output and resiliency.

With massive investment in social services and infrastructure along with economic and governance reforms, Aquino is confident of the sustained growth for the economy.

“So it becomes a virtuous cycle of us delivering on the promises, the expectations rising, and then the optimism generating a more positive activity within the economy – both in terms of the growth of the middle class and also the confidence of those who have the economic clout to effect changes in our country,” he stressed.

Relatively, the President said investors’ confidence on the domestic economy has attracted foreign investments, thus, he continued to encourage businessmen to tap opportunities in the country.

“So, I guess, in a sense there will be less risks, (there is) optimism, hope, more actual figures that will say that it is really more fun not just to visit the Philippines but to do business in the Philippines,” he added. (PNA)