International Finance

Philippines: Strengthen behavioral skills of workforce to compete in global economy

Filipinos with higher levels of behavioral skills are more successful in completing secondary education and continue with tertiary education

A person’s ability to read, learn, think, remember and pay attention – ‘cognitive skills’ – are important for moving ahead in life. But good ‘socioemotional’ or ‘behavioral skills’ like grit, openness, extraversion, agreeableness, emotional stability, and decision-making skills are equally important.

Filipinos with higher levels of behavioral skills are more successful in completing secondary education and continue with tertiary education.

These are among the findings of a study titled Developing Socioemotional Skills for the Philippines Labor Market released today by the World Bank.

When Filipinos land jobs, those with good socioemotional or behavioral skills usually get better pay, particularly benefitting women, young workers, and less-educated workers. On average, higher levels of socioemotional skills command wages that are 10 percent higher than for workers with similar education but possess less of these behavioral skills.

The Philippines has made great strides in educating its work force since the 1950s, when more than half of the population had no formal schooling. In 2010, 40 percent of the population have completed secondary education while 20 percent were college graduates.

“Numeracy, literacy, technical skills, and school enrollment are benchmarks of a productive, modern nation,” said Mara K. Warwick, World Bank Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand. “But the jobs of the future also require skills that promote individual behavior, personality, attitude and mindset. Integrating behavioral skills in schools and vocational training will help the Philippines to be more competitive globally.”

The study – part of a household survey initiative under the international umbrella program STEP (Skills for Employability and Productivity) – revealed that the number of Philippine firms reporting 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 in order to improve behavioral skills.

“The behavioral skills necessary to succeed in the labor market must be taught throughout childhood. Schools are well placed to teach these skills,” said Pablo Acosta, World Bank Senior Economist specializing in social protection and jobs. “Vocational counseling and apprenticeships can also help workers improve their behavioral skills and job prospects.”

Other recommendations of the report include expanding early childhood development services that foster socioemotional skills development; revising the curricula to favor the development of positive attitudes and greater time for music, arts, physical education, health and values education; strengthening training of teachers, to improve their competency in shaping students’ behavior; and integrating behavioral skills in regular training programs – for example, in the technical-vocational training courses provided by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

The recommendations of this study are consistent with the priorities in the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 in Accelerating Human Capital Development, and with the World Bank Country Partnership Strategy 2015-2019 for Rapid, Inclusive, and Sustained Economic Growth.

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