The Philippines had a labor force estimated at 32 million in 2000. In 1998, 40% were engaged in agriculture, forestry, and fishing (compared with 58% in 1968), 17% worked in industry, and 43% in the service sector. In 2001, the unemployment rate was estimated at 10% of the workforce.
In May 1974, the government passed a new labor code that restructured the trade union movement on a one-industry, one- union basis. Most of the more than 3,700 trade unions are small; industrial unions have been united in the Philippines Trade Union Congress, and agricultural workers in the Federation of Free Farmers. Strikes are prohibited in such essential services as transportation, communications, and health care. In 2001, about 11% of the labor force was unionized, although only 2% were covered by collective bargaining agreements. While the right to strike and bargain are recognized by law, numerous instances of intimidation of union officials have been reported.
In 2002, the average legal daily minimum wage was $5.60 for nonagricultural workers This does not provide a family with a decent living standard. Perhaps as many as one-fifth of businesses in the Philippines do not pay the minimum wage. Agricultural wages are even lower, at a minimum of $2.60 per day. The minimum working age is 15, although children even younger may work under the supervision of a parent or guardian. In practice, many children work in the informal economy, although serious efforts are being made by the government to reduce the number of children who are working.