Unemployment rate a driving factor of Philippine crime – Artlets study

Yellow police tape barricading a crime scene. iStock photo

UNEMPLOYMENT IS a leading factor in committing crimes in the country, an undergraduate study said. 

UST Economics graduate Devon Garcia’s study titled “Philippine Crime Dynamics: The Determinants of Regional Index and Non-Index Crimes” argued that a lower unemployment rate would result in a decreased regional crime rate. 

Garcia’s study won the best thesis award in the Economics program during the UST Faculty of Arts and Letters Solemn Investiture on June 10. The study used regional crime rate data in the country in 2009, 2012, 2015 and 2018 to analyze the determinants of crime.

“A major factor is employment because that’s what people need the most; it’s their main source of income. So, instead of committing to illegal income opportunities or income-generating activities, they go for legitimate opportunities,” Garcia told The Flame.

The paper suggested that the regional crime rate might grow at a “greater pace” as  unemployment rate increases.

“What we’re seeing is that unemployment has a great effect on crime,” Garcia said.

According to him, inquiring about the relationship’s nonlinearity, which can entail changes in the link between employment and crime will be helpful to policy makers. 

“That could be very important for our policymakers. That’s another factor that they can consider when planning how to approach unemployment here in the Philippines,” the Economics graduate said.

“Although it isn’t part of this study, we might be able to see that there is a certain threshold before the relationship [between unemployment and crime] changes.” 

Population density, education output, economic growth, and income inequality were also used to study regional crime rates. 

The data used in the study was sourced from the annual Philippine Statistical Yearbook and the OpenSTAT platform of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). PSA reported a 4% unemployment rate  in April,  lower than the 4.5% logged in the same month last year but slightly higher than the 3.9% recorded in March.

The Philippines also ranked 25th out of 193 countries in the highest criminality rate in 2023, with a 6.63 score, according to the Global Organized Crime Index. A high criminality score, which is based on the assessment of the structure and control of groups committing criminal activities, reflects the severity of criminal conditions in a country.

Other crime determinants

Aside from the unemployment rate, population density and education output were found to be significant in influencing regional crime rates. 

The study indicated that an increase in population density in the country results in fewer crimes. This was attributed to Filipino communities’ tight social connections and “chika culture,” which increased public surveillance and police-like presence.

“It (population density) becomes a crime deterrent in a sense that there is public surveillance where instead of committing a crime, it is prevented due to surrounding people’s vigilance,” Garcia said.

The growth of education output, or the economic measure of the education sector’s contributed goods and services, is seen to lead to an increase in regional crimes, particularly those offenses that take or damage another individual’s property. This is due to white-collar crimes, such as online fraud and scamming, that occur in financial and digital spaces. 

“What we can say about this is that, probably, because access is increasing–digital access and financial access as well through the education of Filipinos, there are also higher opportunities [for the criminals to commit crimes],” Garcia said.

Meanwhile, economic growth and income inequality were found to be insignificant crime determinants due to the “regional differences” influencing the link between crime and socioeconomic factors.


The quantitative study explored the relationship of socioeconomic and demographic factors with the three categories of regional crime, namely, index crimes against persons (ICAP), index crimes against property (ICAPr), and non-index crimes (NIC). It employed fixed-effects panel data regression, which is used to identify the determinants that remain constant over time, to analyze the crime data.

Each factor should meet the significance level of 0.05 or less to be considered a significant deterrent of the three types of regional crimes. However, factors that have significance level of 0.1 or less are considered as marginal significant deterrents.

The unemployment rate had a significant level of 0.0553 for ICAP, 0.0034 for ICAPr, and 0.0001 for NIC, indicating that this factor impacted all types of regional crimes. 

For population density, the significance levels of ICAP, ICAPr, and NIC were 0.0013, 0.0055, and 0.4074, respectively. It suggested that the execution of ICAP and ICAPr is influenced by the number of individuals living in an area.

The study also showed that the education output only affected ICAP and ICAPr, with a significance level of 0.0719 and 0.0429, respectively. The level for NIC was 0.1602.

Meanwhile, the economic growth had a significance level of 0.3569 for ICAP, 0.2868 for ICAPr, and 0.3789 for NIC, indicating that this factor did not influence individuals to commit any type of regional crime.

For income quality, the significance levels of ICAP, ICAPr, and NIC were 0.2396, 0.9023, and 0.0537, respectively, revealing that this factor only affects NIC.

Unavailability of crime data

While conducting his study, Garcia expressed  concern about the inconsistency and unavailability of crime data in the country, which prevented researchers from conducting studies on the topic.

“That is also very concerning because we cannot have or create a longitudinal study that we can evaluate throughout the years because of how broken the crime data is [in the country],” he added.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) changed its data collection and recording methods in 2009 and 2016, while crime records in 2019 remain unavailable despite requesting access, according to the Economics graduate.

In 2009, the reporting method of the PNP shifted to the National Crime Reporting System (NCRS) from the Police Regional Office Periodic Report (PROPER). The NCRS records crime details in terms of the victim’s and offender’s data, while PROPER logs details of the crime event such as the location, involved individuals, motive and results of the investigation.

According to PNP’s 2009 Unit Crime Periodic Report, inconsistent reports and records of numerous crime incidents through PROPER prompted changes in methods to prevent possible inaccuracies in presenting the country’s crime situation. 

Garcia plans to submit his thesis to the PNP and National Economic and Development Authority to help improve law enforcement and promote sustainable development in the country. F

Editor’s note: The significance level of the factors has been changed and corrected from 0.1 to 0.05.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Posts

Contact Us