Joblessness among adult Filipinos has reached a record high as the Philippines continues to battle a growing number of new coronavirus infections.
The pandemic has resulted in the temporary closure of offices, factories, markets, and shopping malls, displacing thousands of workers since March.
As of August 16, the Philippines’s total Covid-19 caseload breached the 160,000 mark, according to the Department of Health.
A survey done by independent pollster Social Weather Stations revealed that during the pandemic unemployment in the country rose by 28 points from 17.5 percent in December 2019.
It is a new record-high since the 34.4 percent in March 2012.
The survey said that 45.5 percent of the country’s adult population have become jobless, half of whom lost their jobs during the pandemic.
The Social Weather Stations said the estimated numbers of jobless adults were 27.3 million in July 2020 and 7.9 million in December 2019.
The July 2020 survey found the adult Labor Force Participation Rate is at 86.4 percent for an estimated 60 million adults.
This used to be 68.7 percent in December 2019 for an estimated 45.5 million adults.
Jobless were defined as those who voluntarily left their old jobs, are seeking jobs for the first time, or lost their jobs due to economic circumstances beyond their control.
The survey found that one out of five or 21 percent of adult Filipinos — or half of the 42 percent with no job/livelihood at the time of the interview — lost their job/livelihood during the global health crisis.
The other 21 percent lost their job/livelihood before the crisis.
The rest either had a job/livelihood at the time of the interview at 47 percent or never had a job/livelihood before at 11 percent.
The proportion of those who lost their job/livelihood during the coronavirus crisis is slightly higher in urban areas at 23 percent than in rural areas at 18 percent.
It is highest in Luzon region at 23 percent, followed by the Visayas at 19 percent, Mindanao at 19 percent, and the national capital at 18 percent.
The pollster attributed the 28-point surge in the national joblessness rate to increases of 31 points in the Visayas, 29 points in Metro Manila, 28 points in Balance Luzon, and 25 points in Mindanao.
Nothing to worry about
Government spokesman Harry Roque, however, said the survey results are welcome.
“I am glad to hear that we didn’t hit 100 percent in terms of unemployment because we’ve been under lockdown for so long,” said Roque.
“I’m still surprised at our resilience that only 45 percent lost their jobs. It could have been worse since we’re experiencing complete lockdowns,” he added.
“I personally belong to the school of thought na we need to learn how to live our lives with Covid-19,” said Roque, President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman.
“The solution is we really need to reopen the economy since most Filipinos will still have no jobs if we maintain the lockdowns,” he said.
A group of researchers, however, warned against easing quarantine restrictions as nationwide cases may reach 230,000 by the end of August if quarantine measures are relaxed.
Researchers from Octa research group, which is studying the coronavirus outbreak in the country, recommended that the government extend the current “modified enhanced community quarantine” in Metro Manila for the next 15 days.
“If we lift the MECQ prematurely, we will need to deal with the outbreak in the [capital] entering a phase of uncontrolled and very rapid growth,” the researchers warned.
The strict quarantine measures in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, and Laguna provinces is set to lapse on August 18.
Labor Assistant Secretary Nikki Tutay, meanwhile, agreed with the results of the Social Weather Stations survey, although he said the government uses a different metric to track unemployment.
Official labor statistics for July will be released by the Philippine Statistics Authority on September 4.
Latest government data showed a record-high 7.3 million adults, equivalent to 17.7 percent, were rendered jobless as of April — the first month of lockdowns meant to contain infections.
The Social Weather Stations survey was done through mobile phone interviews of adult Filipinos 18 years old and above, randomly drawn from a database of mobile phone numbers compiled from SWS national and subnational representative face-to-face surveys since 2017.
The survey maintains the sampling error margins of ±2% for national percentages, ±6% for Metro Manila, and ±5% for Balance Luzon, ±5% Visayas, and ±5% in Mindanao.