• Melo Acuna

COVID-19 pandemic sends millions out of jobs

COVID-19 renders 7.3 million Filipinos unemployed

MANILA – The COVID-19 pandemic sent millions of Filipinos out of job and sending underemployment figures rising as national government leaders implemented a tight lockdown hoping to contain the contamination figures to a bare minimum.

Speaking over Wednesday Roundtable @ Lido, Labor and Employment Asst. Secretary Dominque Rubio-Tutay said the most recent Philippine Statistics Authority’s Labor Force Survey last April revealed unemployment rate rose to 17.7% equivalent to 7.3 million Filipinos. Meanwhile, underemployment rose to 18%.

Dr. Jose Ramon G. Albert, a senior research fellow at the Philippine Institute of Development Studies said poverty rates are determined every three years from the Family Income Expenditure Survey by the Philippine Statistics Authority.

PSA enumerators conducted the study two years ago but unemployment figures have remained significantly high even prior to the onset of COVID-19.

“Poor people cannot afford to remain unemployed so they will always find income generating activities even at the height of the lockdown,” Dr. Albert said. He explained with the lockdown, Social Weather Stations did its survey on hunger figures where the recent figures doubled compared to December results.

He explained some 5.5 million Filipinos may have been driven to poverty by COVID-19 but with the social amelioration program, the figures are estimated to be 1.5 which he said remains significant and important to consider.

“If we are to look into the labor market today, the vacancies will never be enough for those looking for work. Industries are closely coordinating with us and what remains available are those from Information and Business Process Outsourcing while there’s a few in Logistics and Manufacturing,” Asst. Secretary Tutay explained. She added these industries need people to work in warehouses and work as drivers. Construction projects will likewise need workers.

She also confirmed earlier reports COVID-19 spread in workplaces through shuttle services provided by management as well as cafeterias when people converge during mealtime.

“Common smoking areas also harness COVIC-19 spread in different companies,” she said.

Asked how poor families spend their meager income, Dr. Albert said poor households spend 70% of whatever they earn on food.

“If you earn P100,000 a month, you don’t spend P70,000 on food alone. Whenever your income increases, you spend less on food and when you’re poor, whatever is left of your income goes to water, sanitation facilities and other requirements thereby making you more vulnerable,” Dr. Albert explained. He added when you spend less on one’s personal upkeep, you tend to be vulnerable to diseases including COVID-19.

Dr. Albert said for households with more than five persons, it would be difficult to observe physical distancing.

“It behooves upon government to control COVID-19’s spread to protect more people from harm as COVID-19 is more prevalent in urban areas rather than rural areas,” he explained.

Asked if there is any correlation between poverty and criminality, Dr. Albert said criminality is corelated with the inequitable distribution of wealth, the lack of opportunity to provide for the family’s basic needs.

Explaining the headwinds faced by new approached to basic education, Dr. Albert said DICT came out with a survey last year which revealed only 17% of households have access to the internet. If one’s to consider people using their mobile phones with access to data, only have of the total number of households have access to the internet. A significant number of Filipino households rely on radio and television for news and information.

COVID-19 revealed the weakness in government spending for health services as hospital beds have reached critical conditions as the disease continue to impact on the Filipino citizenry. (Melo M. Acuña)

Filipinos waiting for Social Amelioratiion program funds in Rosario, Batangas and in Quezon City. (Photos by Melo M. Acuna)

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