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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

Gradual opening of the economy vowed

Low-risk areas seen to expand business, transport and other sectors

MANILA – The country’s economic managers today said the lockdown implemented last year resulted in the shutdown of 75 percent of the country’s economy. In a statement released in time for the January 2021 Labor Force Survey Results’ release, they said their improved the government’s health care capacity to stop the COVID-19 infections.

The economy shrunk by 9.5 percent despite the gradual reopening of the economy during the second semester of 2020. The contraction, considered the worst performance in nearly eight decades, resulted in the loss of jobs for millions of the country’s labor force and millions of others experiencing hunger.

The recent Labor Force Survey results showed the prospects have remained bright as workers begin to get back to their jobs.

“While the unemployment rate remains unchanged at 8.7 percent, more opportunities from the easing of restrictions meant that more people are rejoining the labor force. Between October 2020 and January 2021, some 1.4 million jobs were restored as the labor force participation rate, or the proportion of the working age population that is either working or actively looking for work, increased from 58.7 percent to 60.5 percent over that three-month period,” the statement said.

Some 269,000 jobs were restored in the National Capital Region (NCR) bring the unemployment rate from 12.4 percent in October 2020 to 8.8 percent in January 2021. The underemployment rate fell from 11.1 percent to 8.2 percent during the same period.

However, in areas outside the National Capital Region, unemployment increased from 8.2 percent in October 2020 to 8.7 percent in January 2021 while the underemployment rate increased as well from 14.9 percent to 17.1 percent. These figures could be due to the loss of jobs and reduction in income from weather disturbances and flooding, the outbreak of the African Swine Fever (ASF) that almost devastated livestock production, continued mobility restrictions that affected travel and domestic tourism particularly during the holiday season when most people were looking forward to trips to their provinces which could have resulted to higher income opportunities.

The economic managers were quoted in their statement that workers are gradually taking back the work they lost because of the pandemic. The smaller progress during Q4 of 2020, made it imperative for the government to address the remaining restrictions before the economy can inch closer to normal.

The economic managers said the gradual and safe relaxation of community quarantine and now left with localized quarantine whenever needed the expansion of the age group allowed out of their homes but subjected to health safeguards, to increase consumer demand and the further opening of public transportation, including support for active transport with more protected bicycle lanes.

“All these will provide Filipinos with more job opportunities, as well as safer and more convenient options to go to work,” they said.

The economic managers said low-risk areas can gradually begin expanding capacities in business, transport and other sectors and safely widening the age group allowed to get out of residence.

They added with the full and fast implementation of the recovery package would highlight the growth through Bayanihan II. They said with the vaccination program in place, medical frontline workers have received the first jab, this is a leap forward for healthcare system and the entire country as the added confidence will boost the recovery further.

The statement was signed by Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendric T. Chua, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III and Budget and Management Secretary Wendel E. Avisado. (Melo M. Acuña)

Screen grab from PCOO/PTV4/RTVM first inoculation at Philippine General Hospital, March 1,2021. (Melo M. Acuna)

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