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Speeches & Transcripts November 23, 2017

Developing Socioemotional Skills for the Philippines Labor Market

Mr. Dominador Say, Undersecretary of the Department of Labor and Employment;

Atty. Nepomuceno Malaluan, Assistant Secretary, Department of Education;

Mr. Luis Alberto Anastacio, President and Chief Executive Officer, Servicio Filipino, Inc;

Dr. Aniceto Orbeta, Senior Research Fellow, Philippine Institute for Development Studies;

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen;

Good Morning!

I’m deeply honored to share the room with distinguished guests and personalities from the government, private sector, civil society and the academe – leaders and stakeholders whose decisions and resolve are crucial for the betterment of the country’s educational system.

Today, we are launching a report titled Developing Socioemotional Skills for the Philippines Labor Market. The report findings highlight issues that, for parents including myself, are very close to our hearts: how best to prepare our children for a dynamic and changing world.

Please allow me to situate today’s discussion in the context of economic development in the Philippines.

Good economic fundamentals have placed the Philippines on a high growth path. The Philippine economy grew at an average of 6.1 percent between 2011 and 2016 and is projected to remain among the fastest growing economies in East Asia and the Pacific region in the coming years.

Strong economic growth has stimulated job creation and poverty reduction, leading to observations that the country’s growth pattern has started to become more inclusive.

Underemployment, however, remains an enormous challenge because many Filipinos work in the informal sector. Access to higher-paying and more stable jobs in the formal sector will likely require a different skill profile for workers as well as reforms that encourage the creation of quality jobs.

This report forms part of a global initiative to measure workforce skills in a comparable way, focusing on the role of socioemotional or soft skills. It is called STEP, or Skills Towards Employability and Productivity. STEP has now been conducted in 14 countries, including the Philippines.

This brings us to why we are here today.

All of us understand the importance of cognitive skills or the ability to read, learn, think, remember and pay attention in the work force.

Numeracy, literacy, technical skills, knowledge of the sciences, and educational attainment of the population are the foundations for innovation, sustained improvements in productivity, and modernization of the economy.

And yet we also know that in making things happen, we always rely on personnel who possess the “intangibles” like grit, determination, the right attitude, focus, tenacity, and good communications as well as interpersonal skills to carry things through.

This report tells us that these intangibles or socioemotional skills are increasingly crucial to the types of jobs needed by the global economy.

In the Philippines, the continuing transformation of the economy is creating a bourgeoning demand for jobs that require skills related to individual behavior, personality, attitude, and mindset.

This trend is clearly revealed in the results of the employer and household surveys conducted for this Report:

  • The number of Philippine firms that report inadequate workforce skills rose by 30 percent in the past six years.
  • Two-thirds of employers or companies report difficulty finding workers with an adequate work ethic or appropriate interpersonal and communication skills.
  • An increasing number of firms resort to in-house training focusing largely on imparting behavioral skills to fill in the gap.

It is no wonder that workers who have a higher level of socio-emotional skills are compensated well, as the report shows. Moreover, these skills influence employment and education decisions.  

Therefore, integrating behavioral skills in early childhood care, schooling, and vocational training can expand job opportunities, while meeting the requirements of employers.

It is exciting to note that the study has generated high levels of interest from our key partners in our consultation sessions. These include the Department of Education, the Department of Labor and Employment, National Economic and Development Authority, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), and the Commission on Higher Education, as well as partners in the private sector.

Coordinated policies and efforts between the government agencies and private sector are the key to the success for fostering skills development and growth of the country’s workforce. Other countries have managed to do so and their examples are highlighted in the report: Singapore, the United States, Mexico, Peru, and Colombia.

Our colleague Pablo Acosta, and our distinguished panelists will discuss these issues in greater detail. We hope today’s discussion will identify better approaches so that our children and the work force will be well-prepared to face the ever-changing world.

We want to thanks our donor partners, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which provided critical funding to the STEP survey, and the Korea-World Bank Partnership Facility for support in the dissemination of the study.

The World Bank has been a long-term partner of the Philippines in its efforts to achieve inclusive growth or growth that creates more and better jobs and reduces poverty. The Bank is steadfast in this commitment and stands ready to support reforms and programs, particularly in education, that will help the country achieve this goal.

Thank you.