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Philippine Startups: Harnessing the Filipino Youth

The Philippines is chair of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN)  this year and one of its key thrusts is youth entrepreneurship and innovation. That puts it in a strategic position to address one of its most pressing economic problems.

In 2016, national unemployment figures showed good news. The unemployment rate dipped below 5% at 4.7% which is the lowest if not the lowest in recent recorded history for the country. That means from a high of 2.37 million it went down to 2.04 million. Thus 1.88 million new jobs were created as compared to the increase of the labor force by 1.54 million.

What is still alarming is that working age starts at 15 years old and 78% of the jobless still belongs to the young workers sector that ranges from 15 – 34 years old. Statistics disclosed that 34% went to college and 20.5% graduated from college. This makes it a “youth unemployment” issue. A significant number of our potentially most productive age segment is out of work. This negates the country’s so called demographic sweet spot wherein for 30 years, we will have the youngest and most number of potentially productive citizens as compared to most nations who face aging populations.

This is alarming since if these unemployed young workers will not find gainful employment and livelihood in the country, they will further enhance the talent diaspora being experienced by the country since the late 1960’s. That is almost 3 generations of brain drain and talent depletion for the country.

The economic policy makers and managers of the country must formulate policies and implement them to arrest the further exodus of talented and productive citizens. This coupled with the current anti-immigration trend being experienced by traditional developed countries eyed by OFWs.

But recent developments also augur well if only it be handled deftly and correctly by leaders of the government and the private sector. Technology has enabled many of the youth with proficiency in the startup sector. These are new enterprises fueled by ideas that are now within reach of fruition because of technology. These has created a window for innovation and creativity in new services and processes fueled by ideas and enabled by technology. The startup evolution has been started and the ecology is developing combining innovation with venture investors willing to not only invest but to promote such with fellow investors.

It is not only startups has the youth been focusing. Using new technology, traditional industries such as agriculture and transport have also benefitted from these new products and processes developed by the youth.

The role of government is to help provide for financing, institutional protection and even professional mentoring for the youth who have found the solutions to unemployment themselves. 

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