Developing Socioemotional Skills for the Philippines Labor Market


  • Although the Philippines has achieved remarkable progress in raising the education level of its labor force, the standard proxy for educational attainment—years of formal schooling—is increasingly inadequate as a measure of workforce skills.
  • About one-third of employers’ report being unable to fill vacancies because of a lack of applicants with requisite skills. Most of these missing skills are not forms of academic knowledge or technical acumen but rather socioemotional skills, also known as “noncognitive skills,” “soft skills,” or “behavioral skills.”
  • Emerging international evidence suggests that socioemotional skills are increasingly crucial to the types of jobs being created by the global economy. Whereas in the past, literacy, numeracy, and various forms of administrative and technical know-how drove gains in worker productivity, structural economic transformation is creating a burgeoning demand for jobs that require skills related to individual behavior, personality, attitude, and mindset.
  • However, governments and educational institutions in many countries, including the Philippines, are only beginning to fully recognize the importance of socioemotional skills and to develop strategies to foster their development.


  • This study presents new evidence from employer and household surveys on the role of socioemotional skills—as well as more traditional cognitive and technical skills—in the Philippine labor market. The analysis reveals the following:
    • The number of Philippine firms that report inadequate workforce skills rose by 30 percent in the past six years alone. Two-thirds of employers report difficulty finding workers with an adequate work ethic or appropriate interpersonal and communications skills.
    • Because the education and vocational training sector has been slow to meet the demand for socioemotional skills development, the proportion of firms that provide worker training has doubled over the past six years, and firm based training increasingly focuses on socioemotional skills.
    • In the Philippines, more-educated and employed workers tend to score higher on measures of grit, decision making, agreeableness, and extraversion.
    • One standard deviation in socioemotional skills is associated with a 9 percent increase in average daily earnings (approximately US$2). Socioemotional skills are associated with especially large income increases for women, young workers, less-educated workers, and those employed in the service sector.
    • Higher levels of socioemotional skills are also correlated with a greater probability of being employed, having completed secondary education, and pursuing tertiary education.


  • The Philippines is still at an early stage in terms of its ability to measure and develop socioemotional skills. Studies suggest that primary school is the optimal time for shaping socioemotional skills, but the elementary education curriculum devotes limited resources to their development. Schools continue to be judged solely by students’ performance on cognitive achievement tests rather than on soft-skills competencies, and teachers are not appropriately trained to foster the development of those competencies. Developing those should be a priority.
  • Interventions targeting workers entering the labor force can also effectively bolster their socioemotional skills, as well as complementing efforts to improve labor market information and vocational counseling.


WB urges educational overhaul to teach ‘soft skills’  The World Bank (WB) said Philippine employers are reporting difficulties in recruiting workers with the appropriate “soft skills” above and beyond the desired technical qualifications. In a report, “Developing Socioemotional Skills for the Philippines’ Labor Market,” the bank said “about one-third of employers report being unable to fill vacancies due a lack of applicants with the requisite skills. Most of these “missing skills” are not academic knowledge or technical know-how, but rather socioemotional skills, also known as ‘non-cognitive skills,’ ‘soft skills’ or ‘behavioral skills.’” The report also claimed a correlation between greater socioemotional skills and higher earnings… “[M]ost socioemotional skills are related to labor earnings in a comparable way to that of traditional educational attainment,” the report said…


Philippines: Keeping in step with what employers want  It is said that some employees are hired because of their technical skills, but fired due to their behaviors or attitudes, such as arriving late or showing a lack of commitment to achieve the firms’ goals. This complaint seems to be frequently mentioned during our many discussions with Filipino employers. But what does the hard evidence show, beyond anecdotal remarks? Do Filipino employers have difficulty finding workers with the right “soft skills” (socio-emotional skills, right attitudes and behaviors)? And if so, do we have evidence that it leads to better pay? And how are employers, employees and government responding to these labor market signals? Few have gone beyond anecdotal evidence or investigated in depth regular employers’ surveys in this area. A new World Bank study called “Developing Socioemotional Skills for the Labor Market in the Philippines”, using Skills for Employability and Productivity or STEP surveys, addresses this gap…

More Philippine Firms Report Unfilled Vacancies As Demand For ‘Soft Skills’ Rises

WB Urges Educational Overhaul To Teach ,Soft Skills’

Improve Your Social Skills To Increase Your Pay – WB Study

Filipino Workers Need Socioemotional Skills 

PH Workers Lack Soft Skills, Study Says

Workers With Good Behavioral Skills Get Better Pay

Higher Salaries Likely For Workers With Socioemotional Skills: World Bank

More Philippine Firms Report Unfilled Vacancies As Demand For ‘Soft Skills’ Rises

Teach for the Philippines has been preparing and developing a long-term framework for evaluation with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (MIT J-PAL) to evaluate the impact of our program since we began operations in 2012. As part of this preparation, in 2016-2017, TFP successfully completed the implementation of an early stage MIT J-PAL–guided evaluation in our placement in Surigao del Norte. Based on preliminary findings, MIT J-PAL observed large, statistically significant impacts on student achievement by TFP Teacher Fellows, measured in standard deviations from the control group distribution. More specifically, they found that having an English TFP Teacher Fellow increases scores by 0.47 standard deviations, and having a Science TFP Teacher Fellow increases scores by 0.86 standard deviations. This is a sizeable impact relative to results of studies done on various education interventions where 0.02 standard deviations is already considered large.* Given that these are results of a pilot study examining short-term effects, there are plans to expand the same study by collecting additional student and community data in SY 2017-2018 and running more evaluations in the future to validate the results. The lessons learned here will help the organization when we run a full-scale randomized control trial (RCT) in the near future…

Productivity and its Determinants: Innovation, Education, Efficiency, Infrastructure, and Institutions Based on an extensive literature review, we identify the five main determinants of economic productivity as innovation, education, market efficiency, physical infrastructure, and institutional infrastructure (institutions). We construct indexes representing each main determinant as a linear combination of representative indicators, and assess the relative contribution of the indexes to the variation of productivity across 65 countries for the period 1985−2011. We quantify the relationship between the productivity growth and an overall determinant index. The results show that the variation of productivity is the most sensitive to physical infrastructure, followed by education, market efficiency, innovation, and institutional infrastructure. The overall determinant index has a positive relationship with the productivity growth…

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