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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

ILO research reveals Philippines tops in working-hour losses in ASEAN

Slower jobs recovery seen in ASEAN region; Philippines tops largest working-hour losses

MANILA – Workers who still have jobs may find shorter working hours as recovery may still take some time.

According to the International Labour Organization, their study entitled COVID-19 and the ASEAN labour market: Impact and policy response, the pandemic left a heavy impact on the region’s economies. They referred to the mobility restrictions, progress on vaccinations and the pace of economy recovery, are working hours seen to fully recover by 2022.

This year, ASEAN is expected to reel from losses in working hours of 7.4 per cent in the baseline scenario and 7.0 per cent and 7.9 per cent in the optimistic and pessimistic scenarios, compared to the pre-pandemic levels.

In their statement the ILO said the region recorded working hour losses of 6.1 percent in the first quarter of 2021 and 6.2 percent in the second quarter. In the second half of 2021, labour market conditions are seen to deteriorate due to the ongoing wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The crisis has laid bare the vulnerabilities of the economies and labour markets in the region. With the situation likely to persist for some time, the urgency grows for ASEAN countries to accelerate the policies and programs that will boost resilience of enterprises, workers, and households and set stronger foundations for decent work for all,” said Chihoko Asada-Miyakawa, ILO Asst. Director General and Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.

In the research, it weas found there were 10.6 million fewer workers in employment in the region that what would have been expected without the pandemic. The region recorded working-hour losses of 8.4 per cent in 2020 which is equivalent to the working time of about 24 million full-time workers with labour income falling by 8,.7 per cent.

The Philippines had the largest working-hour losses among ASEAN countries in 2020 with an annual decrease of 13.6 percent. Working hours in countries like Brunei Darussalam, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Thailand saw hours worked drop by 4.3 to 4.5 per cent.

Women and young workers were among the groups of workers most affected by job losses.

ASEAN economies and labour markets have been affected through various channels by the pandemic, including lockdown measures implemented by authorities to curb the spread of the virus, the dramatic decline in tourism, the decrease in domestic consumption as well as impacts through global supply chains.

The ILO research revealed ASEAN countries collectively allocated about 16 per cent of GDP on the fiscal stimulus response until May 31, 2021. However, further policy action in the realm of social protection, enterprise support and labour protections will be needed to ensure a human-centred recovery from the crisis in the ASEAN region.

During the press briefing, ILO economist Christian Viegelahn said it is too early to know the impact of work-from-home arrangements on the workers’ productivity.

“The is currently being investigated,” he said. When asked of COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on seafarers, Viegelahn said they have seen a lot of impact on hundreds of thousands of seafarers.

“Some weeks ago, ILO came up with a recommendation that seafarers be given preferential access to vaccines for them to as they are important to the supply chains, he further explained. (Melo M. Acuña)

Bangkok-based Christian Viegelahn, Senior Economist, International Labour Organization during an online briefing with ASEAN journalists at midday today. (Screen grab from ILO Press briefing/Melo M. Acuna)

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