IN order to reverse job losses, the government has to allow industries to operate at more than half the capacity and authorize all modes of public transport to resume to get people back to work, industry leaders said on Sunday.
The problem was never job creation; it was work resumption, after all. The economy should see its employment figures go up again once the government permits most of work to operate at above 50 percent capacity, private sector leaders told the Business Mirror.
Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis Jr., president of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), argued that the jobless numbers ballooned in the latest Labor Force Survey (LFS) because millions of workers have yet to return to work on various causes.
However, at the weekend, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin Diokno called the latest data on unemployment"grossly exaggerated" and expressed confidence that labor market numbers will start to recover as quarantines and restrictions are being eased nationwide.
The recently reported 220 percent increase in the country's jobless rate in April is "not a reflection of the true state of the economy and the jobs market," Diokno said.
For his part, Ortiz-Luis told the Business Mirror: "We [employers] would not hire additional workers. There are a lot of workers who have yet to return because their offices have yet to reopen. There is also a social distancing policy in place that keeps industries from operating atfull capacity. The priority should not be creation of new jobs; it should be the resumption of work," Ortiz-Luis explained.
Further, he asked the government to give all modes of public transport the go ahead to ply the roads again, as most firms in the Philippines are micro, small and medium enterprises and, therefore, have little to no extra capital to provide shuttle vans for employees.
Even though quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila are now eased, the government kept the prohibition on jeepneys and buses. Only trains, point to point buses, cabs and ride hailing services were sanctioned to ferry commuters through the major roads, leaving many to fend for themselves on how to reach their work sites.
American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Executive Director Ebb Hinchliffe said the country will likely witness its job figures rebound similar to what the United States experienced after lifting its lockdown.
"The US saw a rebound yesterday [last Friday] in job creation as the country slowly reopens the economy. I would expect similar results here as the country reopens after the ECQ lockdown," Hinchliffe said, referring to the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila that got lifted on June 1.
As for Coco Alcuaz, the executive director of the Makati Business Club, it is now imperative for President Duterte to call for a special session in order to pass the P1.3 trillion stimulus package proposed in Congress.
Last week, the House of Representatives approved the Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy (ARISE) bill. The measure contains P1.3 trillion of funding to be injected in various sectors for the economy's rebound in the lockdown aftermath.
However, as scheduled, lawmakers adjourned session sine die — or for an indefinite period — with the Senate failing to deliberate on the ARISE bill.
Senators had rushed another Covid19 response measure, the Bayanihan extension bill, only to wait in vain till late Thursday for a Palace certification of urgency, that would have allowed a shortcircuiting of the three-day gap rule in between second and third reading approvals of a measure.
"The government needs to put massive stimulus into the economy to slow the job losses. We urge the President to call Congress back to do that," Alcuaz said.
He also said the job losses would not be as extreme as what the latest LFS indicated if only the private sector's call for larger wage subsidieswas heeded.
EUROPEAN Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Executive Director Florian Gottein pushed fora hiring boost in the tourism and transportation industries, among the hardest hit industries by the corona virus pandemic due to travel restrictions imposed here and abroad. As such, he said it is important that workers in these fields get free trainings to obtain new skills.
With state resources stretched by the pandemic, he added it is now urgent for the government to engage in new public-private partnership projects, particularly in infrastructure, to generate instant jobs.
In the April LFS released last week, unemployment rate accelerated by more than triple to 17.7 percent, from 5.1 percent during the same period in 2019. In real value, the numberof jobless Filipinos swelled by nearly 5 million to 7.25 million.
Travel restrictions made it tough for millions to get to work during the lockdown and thousands of business operations had to close — some for good — on declining income, paving the way for a job crisis that was worse than the worst of forecasts.
Globally, the pandemic is seen to displace over 300 million workers, according to estimates by the International Labour Organization (IL0). In May the IL0 reported the labor displacement will come as a consequence of prolonged containment measures in at least 64 countries keeping workers at home and firms shut down.
By Elijah Felice Rosales
Source: Business Mirror