10.9 million Filipinos lost jobs, had lower incomes due to COVID-19 pandemic: ILO

Nika Lazo and Bruce Rodriguez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 15 2020 08:05 PM

Jeepney drivers serving the Monumento-Malabon route beg for money along the road in Caloocan City on August 8, 2020 amid the modified enhanced community quarantine. The drivers return to begging under MECQ after their route and other select routes were previously allowed to operate under GCQ. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Around 10.9 million Filipino workers lost their jobs and had lower incomes and working hours this year as the COVID-19 pandemic affected the economy, according to a labor report released Tuesday.

The report showed two thirds or 7.2 million of the 10.9 million vulnerable Filipino workers may be "displaced" as the Philippines shifts towards online.

"The impact of the crisis has been far-reaching, with underemployment surging as millions of workers are asked to work reduced hours or no hours at all," the International Labor Organization (ILO) said in a report.

High-risk sectors with most displacements include manufacturing, transportation and storage, accommodation and food service activities, as well as arts, entertainment, and recreation.

Christian Viegelahn, a senior economist at ILO Asia-Pacific, said employment recovery "will take some time" as with the process of vaccinating every people.

He added that the bounce-back of the tourism-heavy economies like the Philippines would depend on the confidence of travelers which is hinged on vaccination.

For the Asia-Pacific region, the ILO report said around 81 million jobs were lost this year, which can bring up the unemployment rate in the region to as high as 5.7 percent from 4.4 percent in 2019.

Incomes also decreased by up to 10 percent in the first three quarters of 2020, which meant that 22 million to 25 million workers may go beyond the poverty line, the report cited.

Working hours fell by an estimated 15.2 percent in the second quarter, and 10.7 percent in the third quarter, compared to pre-COVID levels.

These factors led to a higher number of 98 million "working poor" in the Asia-Pacific region this year. Working poor are classified as people living on less than $1.90 or around P90 a day, according to the ILO.

Sara Elder, another senior economist at the ILO Asia-Pacific, said governments in the Asia-Pacific including the Philippines need to invest more in social protection, employment programs, and services to help job seekers.

"We need the economy to start heating up and job creation to heat up so that those persons who are not just unemployed but outside of the labor market to also be reabsorbed into jobs," Elder said.

Official unemployment data in the Philippines reported 3.8 million jobless Filipinos as of October, on the back of persisting effects of the pandemic. 

Earlier reports by Social Weather Stations and Asian Development Bank also pointed to a higher number of jobless Filipinos and lower incomes in the country.

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