There is no doubt COVID-19 and the government-imposed lockdowns took their toll on the labor sector. Millions of Filipinos have lost their jobs since the lockdowns took effect in mid-March last year.
The latest unemployment report issued by the government is a mix of bad and good news. Joblessness in the country as of October 2020 is not as bad as it was in July―it has gone down―but the number of unemployed is higher by 2 million compared with the figure in the same period a year ago.
The pandemic obviously contributed a lot to the rising unemployment in the Philippines. Economic Planning Secretary and National Economic and Development Authority Director-General Karl Kendrick Chua remains upbeat, though. He sees the latest results of the quarterly Labor Force Survey as further signs of economic recovery.
The reopening of the economy led to an improvement in the unemployment rate but Mr. Chua noted that the number could have been lower if the economy were opened further “coupled with the provision of safe and sufficient public transport.”
The unemployment rate in the country improved to 8.7 percent in October from 10 percent in July and 17.6 percent in April. The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that about 3.8 million Filipinos were unemployed as of October, down from 4.57 million in July and 7.23 million in April. However, it was higher than the 2 million jobless individuals in October 2019 when the unemployment rate settled at 4.6 percent.
The statistical agency reported that there were 800,000 million less unemployed workers in October compared with the July survey, but the labor force participation rate fell to 58.7 percent in October from 61.9 percent in July.
The four successive typhoons that battered the country in October and heavy flooding caused a significant employment loss in the agriculture sector. About 1.1 million lost jobs in the agriculture sector in the latter half of October, or about 70 percent of the 1.5 million total recorded between July and October this year.
Quarantine restrictions, meanwhile, are still contributing significantly to the high number of jobless persons. Workers in the provinces, for one, face difficulty in returning to their jobs given the current inter-province transport restrictions. These mobility constraints contributed to 500,000 jobs lost in the industry sector.
Reopening the economy further in the face of declining COVID-19 cases is the only solution to the high unemployment rate. Transport restrictions can be eased as long as strict enforcement of the health protocols are observed.
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