Cabaero: Relief program for workers

Beyond 30

THEY paint a picture of despair with millions of people losing their jobs and their families facing financial crisis.

Governments are showing their numbers of workers who are losing their jobs as a consequence of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III had said that up to five million jobs in the country will be lost by the end of the year. He told the Senate that 2.6 million workers have so far been displaced when businesses suspended operations or shut down amid the pandemic. Hardest hit were the tourism industry and restaurants and transportation businesses.

A relative in a travel agency works only one day a week or gets paid a total of four workdays in a month under an arrangement that started in late March. For June, workers may end up being told they are retrenched or the company is going bankrupt.

It’s happening not only in the Philippines but also in different countries, and in huge numbers.

The United States Department of Labor said more than 40 million people have lost their jobs and filed for unemployment claims in the past 10 weeks from when the pandemic started. Officials called the numbers staggering as the unemployment rate jumped by 200 percent.

The difference between the unemployed in the Philippines and the United States is that affected workers in the latter get unemployment claims of several hundreds of dollars a month to pay for house bills and essentials. Filipinos get benefits prescribed by the law on termination of employment or separation from work.

What the Philippine government did at the start of the pandemic was to come up with financial aid to workers affected by the health crisis. The Department of Labor and Employment has its Covid-19 Adjustment Measures Program (Camp), which aided workers of companies that have temporarily shut operations.

As of last week, some 660,000 workers in private companies already received P5,000 each in Camp funds. The releases came from the P3.28 billion set aside by the Labor department for aid to workers. In mid-April, the department announced it has closed online applications for the aid because of the volume of applications and the fund was close to being depleted.

With the displacement of workers to continue, or to rise even as businesses get to use up reserves after two months of no business activity and people staying at home, there is still the need for government to offer some relief to workers.

The P5,000 cash payouts are gone and beneficiaries are seeing no prospect of another round. This is partly the reason why the government is allowing businesses to reopen and bring people back to work. But the job losses continue.

The displacement of workers does not stop with the easing of quarantine restrictions. On the contrary, after two months of little or no revenue, more might close shop or let go of personnel as cities move into general community quarantine. Unemployment figures will continue to rise.


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