MANILA - The International Labor Organization said Thursday it partnered with the government of Japan to launch a $2.2 million (P110 million) project to support the safe return to work of pandemic-hit MSMEs in the Philippines.
The new project “Bringing back jobs safely under the COVID-19 crisis in the Philippines: Rebooting small and informal businesses safely and digitally,” aims to make workplaces safer, digitalized and productive which will help businesses recover, ILO said in a statement.
The government of Japan would fund the 1-year project, the statement said.
The project will help make workplaces safer and will cover provinces and "non-metropolitan regions" where COVID-19 cases remain high.
“Urgent measures are critical to support them in dealing with the impact of COVID-19, and to build back better and safer. We need to also help people access safe and decent jobs in their own town,” said Director Khalid Hassan of the ILO Country Office for the Philippines.
According to the 2019 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, 99.5 percent of business enterprises in the country are MSMEs while only 0.5 percent are large firms.
MSMEs employ about 7 out of 10 workers in the country and contribute 40 percent of the GDP, the ILO said.
Many small enterprises temporarily suspended operations last year due to COVID-19. Some reduced their workforce or downsized capacity, while some shut down permanently.
"Micro, small and medium enterprises are crucial to economic recovery. Occupational safety and health should be top priority to sustain jobs and businesses in the new normal environment. This includes ensuring a safe return to work, digitalized operations, and safer and more productive workplaces,” said Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Kazuhiko Koshikawa.
ILO said the project would support workers and employers and the current COVID-19 response programs such as the National Employment Recovery Strategy (NERS) and the Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP) of the Philippines.
It will also help boost the digitalization efforts of MSMEs in the provinces, it said.
Various efforts for the project would be implemented in collaboration with private and public partners as well as workers organizations in the country, the ILO said.
Unemployment ballooned in April 2020, right after the COVID-19 lockdown was implemented in March.
Government officials have said the country has gained back the jobs lost. However, the Asian Development Bank earlier noted that despite the employment rate's return to pre-pandemic levels, COVID-19 has resulted in low-quality jobs and skills mismatch.
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