Improve labor system, quality of education

The country needs to improve its quality of education and labor system in an effort to take advantage of investment opportunities amid projections for the Philippines to become one of the world's largest economies by 2050.

Guillermo Luz, co-chair of the National Competitiveness Council (NCC), attributed the rosier economic outlook by some international banks to the country's huge population together with large workforce, and huge domestic market.

Luz said over the next three decades, the Philippines will be the only country whose working population aged 15 to 64 will continue to grow.

He said this trend is attracting a lot of attention from the investors because it is where they see potential workforce.

"But I must say this is not automatic. If we do not improve on both fronts - education and creating more flexible labor regulatory framework, we will not be able to take advantage of this particular trend. And in fact, I think that blessing could be a curse," he said during the 33rd National Conference of Employers.

Luz said the challenge for the Philippines now is to turn these problem areas into an area of opportunity.

To improve the country's education system, he said the NCC's education and human resources development group is working on support programs for the implementation of K-12 program.

The K-12 program shifts the Philippine education system from the current 10 years to 12 years plus kindergarten to bring basic education at par with world standards.

Luz said the Council is also strengthening the collaboration between the industry and academe in an effort to produce employable workforce.

"They encourage the industry to write curriculum that will better equip students for eventual work either coming out of the vocational system or university system. And when the full K-12 program takes in, that vocational track should be introduced at the greater level of 12 tracks," he noted.

To improve the labor system, Luz said they are closely working with the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) to address issues affecting the sector.

"These have to do with rigidity of our labor laws and systems…We want to focus on removing the rigidity and moving to flexible arrangement as far as labor is concerned," he said.

Moreover, Luz said efforts to strengthen the labor and education sectors are important to improve the country's overall competitiveness ranking.

A global competitiveness report indicated that labor market efficiency was among the pillars where the Philippines ranked low. Other major areas of competitiveness the country must address include governance, infrastructure, education and innovation.

"We need to be mindful of a momentum we have picked up and maybe build on this momentum because it is the only way to pick up from speed in terms of becoming more competitive and economic growth, and catch up with the rest of Asean," he added.

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