Small businesses, many of which were forced to shut down in the first three months of pandemic, are beginning to show recovery.
A survey commissioned by the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. shows that micro, small and medium enterprises are gradually coping with the new business trend despite the halts and shutdowns in 2020.
The survey, conducted in January 2021, found out that businesses were keen on observing government-mandated public health protocols, which not only helped in the continuity of operations but also in ensuring industrial health and safety in the workplace.
From a small survey base of 33 companies that are mostly MSMEs, Philexport found that half of the businesses that responded to the survey were able to implement business continuity plans. Yet, some of them are coping by utilizing technologies to benefit from the trends brought by the upcoming Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The respondents are from different sectors such as chemicals, electronics, food, furniture, garments, holiday decors, housewares, metals, textiles and tourism.
According to the survey, 90.9 percent of the firms were operating at a certain capacity while 9.1 percent were temporarily closed.
Majority or 87.9 percent of the respondents reported that the situation of their respective firms was similar to last year while 12.1 percent answered that their situation was better than last year.
About 69.7 percent of respondents said difficulties in coordinating with supply/value chains was the topmost reason why firms experienced operational slowdown/shutdown last year.
This was followed by difficulty in transportation with 48.5 percent; insufficient manpower, 30.3 percent; lack of access to financing 27.3 percent; not allowed to operate, 21.2 percent; and absence of business continuity plans, 9.1 percent.
It was also revealed that the higher cost or insufficiency of raw materials was a major reason some firms were not yet fully operational as of this time.
On the issue of employment, majority or 57.6 percent of the respondents reported no lay-offs while 42.4 percent confirmed having laid off employees either temporarily or permanently. Some 244 employees who were laid off permanently, while 228 were laid off temporarily among the survey participants.
The survey also found that access to financial resources/funding from the government, which may also come in the form of grants, is the primary assistance most of the respondents need from the government.
Other companies said they need streamlined processing of loan application, availability of inexpensive raw and packaging materials, custom support, technical innovation, freight regulation assistance, efficient information dissemination on COVID-19 updates, fast-tracking of vaccine roll-out and policies that are business-friendly which may include relaxing quarantine measures and easing of transportation restrictions.
Meanwhile, the Department of Trade and Industry recently launched the National Employment Recovery Strategy Task Force to fortify the efforts of various government agencies in improving the availability of jobs for Filipinos and their chances of getting hired.
“For this reason, we are drafting NERS as an expanded medium-term ‘Trabaho, Negosyo, Kabuhayan’ blueprint for decent employment and entrepreneurship in the “new normal” so that we can achieve a “Better Normal” for our country,” said Trade Secretary and Task Force NERS chairman Ramon Lopez.
The objective of the employment strategy is to enhance the effectiveness of each of the policies and programs, and to more efficiently achieve the strategic national objectives, he said.
The strategy brings together various measures, programs and institutions that influence the demand and supply of labor as well as the functioning of labor markets. These, Lopez said, will restart economic activities, restore business confidence, upgrade and retool the workforce, and facilitate access to labor markets.
The DTI also recognized the vital role of MSMEs in building back better a Philippine economy. All efforts are directed towards the swift recovery of affected businesses to spur job creation and livelihood opportunities for Filipinos, it said.
The DTI cited the Bayanihan COVID Assistance to Restart Enterprises Program of the Small Business Corp. that allows medium enterprises to borrow up to P3 million and small enterprises may borrow up to P1.5 million provided that they retain or rehire a significant number of workers.
Lopez said the strategy is notable as it helps enterprises sustain their business operations and ensures that they avoid layoffs and hire a significant number of workers.
Digital upskilling of existing and would-be entrepreneurs is also a priority of DTI. Through the Reboot Package for MSMEs, continuous conduct of webinars and training on e- commerce, e-payment and digital marketing continue to encourage and assist MSMEs in embracing digitalization.
This program will help transform their businesses to better adapt to the new business environment in the wake of the pandemic.
The DTI’s Diskwento Caravans will also be conducted widely to provide a market for MSME manufacturers of basic necessities. It offers products prices within or even lower than the suggested retail prices.
Aside from the regular capacity building interventions, various labor force upskilling and reskilling initiatives are set to roll out this year. The DTI E-Commerce Group will be spearheading the launching of the Negosyo and Skills Pathway.
This is composed of tracks on entrepreneurial skills for online enterprises and digital skill pathway for MSMEs and tracks on Pivot and Embrace Technology. PET consists of a series of workshops that aim to cater to those who are seeking remote employment or wish to adopt alternative careers.
“Our goal to create employment opportunities and improving employability of Filipinos during the pandemic will also prepare us for the future rife with Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies. What’s more, this effort will complement the government’s existing recovery initiative under Recharge PH through the Task Group on Economic Recovery,” Lopez said.