5 months after Hanjin closes, Subic workforce bounces back to 135,000

5 months after Hanjin closes, Subic workforce bounces back to 135,000
Workers enter and exit the Subic Bay Freeport main gate during the rush hour earlier this week. (Photo by Jason Joshua Garcia)

By Jason Joshua Garcia

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT – Despite the closure of the Hanjin shipyard last January, this premier Freeport is still showing strength in terms of employment, bouncing back from a mass layoff in the first half of 2019.

During its heyday, Korean shipbuilder Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Philippines, Inc. had hired 30,000 workers. Hit by financial trouble, Hanjin had to be shut, letting go of its workers. Negotiations for a takeover are reported to be in progress.

Still, latest figures from Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) showed a slight increase in employment in this year’s first half, with 135,224 active workers as compared to only 133,940 on record in the same period last year.

“We’re back to more than P135,000 active workers now, which is just a shade lower than our 2018 yearend record of 135,690. But by the end of this year, we are confident that we would again break this 2018 employment record,” said SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma.

“We’re getting a steady increase in the number of new investments, as well as expansion projects, so we’re also expecting a corresponding steady increase in the number of new jobs,” she added.

Among the industries here, the service sector hired the biggest number with a total of 92,453 workers or 68.37% of the total workforce employed by a total of 2,765 companies as of July this year. In June 2018 the record was 76,652 workers (57.23%) hired by 2,470 companies.

In the manufacturing industry, there are now 23,031 employees (17.03%) working for 88 companies here in the first half of this year. Last year, there were 18,197 employees (13.59%) working for 85 companies in this category.

Meanwhile in the construction sector, there were 11,729 workers (8.67%) hired by 199 companies as of the first half of this year. Last year, there were 10,868 employees (8.115) working for 185 companies.

Eisma noted that the rehabilitation of various infrastructure facilities inside the Freeport, including roads, had significantly increased the number of workers hired by construction companies here.

On the other hand, Eisma said that there has been a 450% drop in the number of employees working in shipbuilding and marine-related services after Hanjin filed for bankruptcy last January.

SBMA records indicated a total of 5,901 workers (4.36%) hired by 96 firms as of the first half of 2019, compared to 26,559 (19.83%) hired by 110 companies in the first half of 2018.

Another sector that showed positive gain in the first half was the number of domestic helpers or caretakers employed at residences in the Freeport. This increased to a total of 2,110 (1.57%) from a total of 1,664 in the same period last year.

SBMA data also showed that there are more male employees in the Subic workforce today, with a total of 91,190 (67.44%) compared to 44,034 females (32.56%).

However, the females are catching up considering that there were just 39,079 female workers (29.18%) in Subic last year, compared to 94,861 (70.82%) males.

Among the sources of manpower, Olongapo City remained to be the biggest provider in the frist half of 2019 with a total of 59,107 workers (43.71%), followed by Zambales with 28,855 (21.34%); Bataan, 18,501 (13.68%); National Capital Region, 4,642 (3.43%); Pampanga, 3,574 (2.64%); and Tarlac, 1,679 (1.24%). Other areas contributed a total of 18,866 workers, or 13.95%.

Eisma said the SBMA expects a continuing growth in employment generation with the 45 new investments and 21 expansion projects the agency approved in the first six months this year.

The new investment commitments worth more than P5 billion are projected to generate close to 4,000 new jobs, Eisma added.

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