Google “Filipino Talents Worldwide,” and you will be amazed at the number of Filipino singers, dancers, and other artists who have won in such competitions as America’s Got Talent, Britain’s Got Talent, American Idol, XFactor, the Hal Leonard Vocal Competition, the World Championship of Performing Arts, the Karaoke World Championship, American Idol, Israel’s Got Talent and many more. You will become familiar with such internationally recognized names as Marcelito Pomoy, KZ Tandigan, Jason James Dy, Rose Fostanes, Bella Santiago, Justine Afante, and Jovit Baldivino. These internationally acclaimed singing stars are just the tip of the iceberg. And just think of all the Filipinas who have performed in the musical Miss Saigon all over the world: Lea Salonga, Rachelle Ann Go, Monique Wilson, Joan Almedilla, Isay Alvarez, Joanna Ampil, and Pinky Amador. I am sure any one of them could have done a superb job playing the role of Maria or Anita in the Spielberg version of West Side Story.
I am not being chauvinistic when I claim that Filipinos are among the most creative individuals in the world, whether in the world of music, dance, literature, theater, fashion, architecture, film, photography, visual and graphic arts, etc. Our problem is that we are left to our own individual devices and initiatives by the Government to cultivate our respective talents. With all due respects, I often make the claim that as individuals we are more talented than the South Koreans. They, however, have conquered the world in entertainment through film, dance, and song (e.g., the boys’ band BTS and such extremely successful series as Crash Landing on You or The Good Doctor) because literally thousands of boys and girls are actually gathered in boot camps and trained, with abundant help from the State, in their respective specializations in the creative industries. South Korean creative industries receive abundant funding from the State.
There are hopeful signs, however, that our government is beginning to recognize the tremendous potential of the Philippine creative industries. Our legislators are now working on bills that can unleash significant state support for these industries. Also, the private sector is getting more organized as they have established the Creative Economy Council of the Philippines (CECP). The American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (Amcham) is one of the strongest supporters of this Council and is at present helping to formulate a strategic plan for this most promising sector of the economy. I would like this series of articles to make a small contribution to the formulation of such a strategic plan.
According to a document drafted by Paolo Mercado, Chair of the CECP, the Philippine creative economy was 6.52% of GDP in 2012, and by 2019 had a projected value of P1.27 trillion. In a 2014 Report by IPOPHIL, data from the Census for Philippine Business and Economy (CPBI) was analyzed, leading to an estimate of the value of the creative industries sector to be P689 billion or 6.52% of GDP in 2012. Since no more recent data was available, this figure was applied to the 2019 GDP of P19.5 trillion, yielding the estimate of P1.27 trillion. This total value added was then divided among the sectors of the creative industries. This total value was then broken down to core and non-core Copyright Based Industries (CBI). Among the core CBI creative industries are press and literature; music, theater, operas; motion picture and video; radio and television; photography; software and databases; visual and graphic arts; and advertising services. Among the non-core interdependent sectors are: audiovisual media players and devices; computers and equipment; musical instruments; photographic and cinematographic equipment; photocopiers; blank recording material; and paper. Finally, the non-core partial sectors are apparel, textiles, and footwear; jewelry; other crafts (like those produced by MSMEs in Paete, Laguna, and Baguio); furniture; household goods, china, and glass; wall coverings and carpets; toys and games; and architecture, interior design, etc. The total CBI sector amounted to P906,561,808; the non-core interdependent totaled P271,873,949; and the non-core partial accounted for P96,962,381.
As regards the labor force, it was estimated that there were 865,000 full time creative employees; 1.3-1.7 million contractual creative workers; and 1.3-1.5 million online creative gig or online freelancers. The 2014 IPOPHIL report counted 744,791 people employed in the creative industries or 18.52% of the employees of large establishments. Projecting the percentage to 2019, just before the pandemic, the employment of the creative industries most likely increased to 864,544. These estimates do not include establishments with less than 20 workers each, nor do they include independent contractors/free lancers. We can assume that until another survey is made post-pandemic that many more workers joined the gig economy during the pandemic as some of them lost their jobs in the big establishments and decided to go on their own as contractuals. Creative workers are the most adaptable to working at home. Estimates for 2019 are 531,429 workers in the CORE Copyright Based Industries; 207,789 in the Non-Core Interdependent sector; and 102,316 in the Non-Core Partial sector, totaling 864,544. Among the CORE CBI, the top three employers are Press and Literature (195,081); Music, theater, and operas (151,009); and software and database (93,340). In the Non-Core Independent sector, the top three employers are Toys and Games (33,000); Furniture (27,951); and Apparel, textile, and footwear (22,611).
Most domestic creative industries rely heavily on Contractual Creative Workers (also called freelancers or gig workers). They are not employed full time and are paid per project or “gig.” These include designers, writers, actors, models, singers, musicians, stage crew, film crew, audio-visual technicians, concert roadies, make-up artists, stylists, costume designers, set makers, etc. We may be able to project an estimate from the figures reported by those in animation and advertising. According to their top officials, in their sector, the number of contractors/freelancers is 1.5 to 2 times the number of full-time employed creative workers. This would then put the potential number of creative freelancers supporting domestic creative industries between 1.3 to 1.7 million workers. In addition to these gig workers servicing domestic firms, there are freelancers who work directly with clients abroad through digital means. These constitute an additional 1.12 to 1.5 million Filipinos, an estimate based on reports from Paypal, Upwork, and Payoneer. These Filipino independent online workers make up close to 19% of the global remote workforce. Of these, the majority do online creative work which can range from creative writing, photography, and graphic design, to web design, video editing, animation, software and game development. Surveys have indicated that the majority of these freelancers support their respective families by earning an average hourly rate of $10 per hour. The Philippines is unique in having predominantly female online freelancers.
It is notable that the Philippines has the largest volume of creative services exports in the ASEAN, again highlighting the excellence of individual Filipino talents. According to a study done by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 2018, the Philippines exported $3.2 billion worth of creative services in 2018, followed by Malaysia with $1.4 billion, Singapore with $686 million, Indonesia with $263 million, and Thailand $37 million.
The country does very poorly, however, in manufactured exports of creative products with only $915 million compared with $10.9 billion of Singapore, $6.5 billion of Thailand, $6.1 billion of Malaysia, and $5.1 billion of Indonesia. This is a reminder of the general reality that the Philippines will never be a major goods exporting country, having missed the chance of competing with its East Asian peers in excelling in manufactured exports in the last century for its lingering too long on an inward-looking, import-substitution industrial strategy.
We need not cry over spilled milk, though. We have to intensify our excelling in services exports, once again highlighting the importance of a strategic plan for the creative industries that will focus on services, capitalizing on our numerous artistic talents who can benefit from much more assistance from the Government.
(To be continued.)
Bernardo M. Villegas has a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard, is professor emeritus at the University of Asia and the Pacific, and a visiting professor at the IESE Business School in Barcelona, Spain. He was a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission.