Located in Southeast Asia on a typhoon belt where cyclonic storms hit regularly, the Philippines is an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands. The country is also prone to earthquakes and has a number of active volcanoes. The birth rate is the highest in Asia and the population is growing fast in this largely Catholic country, reaching 92 million in 2010.

Despite political instability between 1970 and 2000, over the last decade economic growth has averaged five per cent, much higher than the previous 20 years. The economy avoided contraction during the global financial crisis, buoyed partially by growing, counter cyclical remittances by migrant workers. Despite sustained growth, poverty reduction is an ongoing challenge complicated by rapid population growth.

Social indicators have improved in a number of areas. Extreme poverty has decreased, infant mortality has declined and more efforts are being made to protect the environment. But primary school attendance has decreased, while maternal mortality remains high and many women lack access to reproductive health care.

Decent work and labour market issues

Poverty reduction and sustainable development are at the top of the development agenda in the Philippines. The government has long seen promotion of full, decent and productive employment as central to these aims.

The structure of the labour market is gradually shifting as jobs move away from agriculture and towards the service sector, which created the most jobs.

Job creation has not kept up with population growth leading to entrenched unemployment and underemployment, particularly affecting young people and rural areas.

Vulnerable employment has declined slightly (44 per cent in 2008), although the number of women in wage work has not changed. Almost half the workforce is employed in the informal economy.

Migration provides a pressure valve for unemployed and underemployed workers including skilled workers and professionals. There are over eight million migrant workers about half of whom are women.

Social dialogue is well established. There is nonetheless scope to strengthen participation of women small businesses and people working in the informal economy.

Social protection is being extended through innovative programmes including conditional cash transfers and increasing services for migrant workers.

Decent work into national practice

The Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016 has adopted three areas of focus to promote development with social justice: 1) Attaining high and sustained job rich growth; 2) Increasing access to development opportunities through human resource development and good governance; 3) Extending social protection.

The Philippine Labor and Employment Plan 2011-2016: Inclusive Growth Through Decent and Productive Work recognizes the importance of job rich growth for inclusive development. The plan sets out a comprehensive strategy to achieve this goal in line with the four pillars of the decent work agenda: 1) Employment; 2) Rights at work; 3) Social protection; 4) Social dialogue.

The Government, Trade Unions and Employers’ Organizations in cooperation with the ILO have designed a national Decent Work Common Agenda.

The Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP) sets out two major priorities until 2015:

  1. Creation of productive employment for a competitive Philippines
  2. Labour governance and rights.

These DWCP priorities also contribute towards the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF).

National partners


Further reading