MANILA - Effective management of risks brought by the COVID-19 pandemic is "crucial" in improving employment in the country, the National Economic and Development Authority said Tuesday.
Unemployment ballooned in early 2020 when the strict lockdown was imposed due to the pandemic. In 2021, when the rise in infections prompted another lockdown, limited mobility was allowed and many industries were able to operate to mitigate impact on employment.
“Managing the current risks brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and other economic shocks will be crucial in continuously improving labor market conditions,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua.
Chua said jobs lost during the strict lockdown last year have all been restored, with more opportunities offered.
However, the Asian Development Bank earlier flagged that although employment is back to pre-pandemic levels, the kind of jobs created are of lower quality.
Based on World Bank's Impact of COVID-19 to Firms and Household survey, the country's labor market needs "further improvement," NEDA said.
Around half of workers felt that their workplaces are safe, while around a third of firms said they have experienced some form of closure during the pandemic, the survey showed.
Unemployment rate is at 8.8 percent in February, equivalent to 4.2 million jobless Filipinos, data showed.
Chua said further impact on jobs could be mitigated using a 3-pronged strategy, including the safe reopening of the economy while adhering to public health protocols, fully implementing the recovery package and timely implementation of the vaccine program.
“All of us in government, the private sector, and the whole country need to rally behind the goal of safely reopening the economy. We will use transparent and credible data support to make all these important decisions,” he said.
The Philippines has allocated P2.75 trillion or 15.4 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) in its recovery package. Its 2021 budget was also "designed" to achieve economic recovery, Chua said.
The government has set a 7.5 percent growth target this year, higher compared to the ADB forecast of at least 4.5 percent. The economy contracted by 9.6 percent in 2020.