AROUND 4.6 million Filipinos, or 10 percent of the active workforce, were unemployed in July 2020, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) announced Thursday, September 3, 2020.
The number was nearly double the roughly 2.4 million unemployed Filipinos, or 5.4 percent unemployment rate, in July 2019.
Five regions reported double-digit unemployment rates: National Capital Region (NCR) with 15.8 percent, Calabarzon with 12.4 percent; Central Visayas with 11.7 percent, Ilocos with 11.1 percent, and Central Luzon with 10.9 percent.
The July labor situation, however, was an improvement from April 2020, when the number of jobless reached 7.3 million, or a record high unemployment rate of 17.7 percent.
Correspondingly, the employment rate improved to 90 percent in July 2020 from 82.3 percent in April 2020.
The underemployment rate, which measures those with jobs but lack income, also eased to 17.3 percent in July 2020 from 18.9 percent in April 2020 but still worse than the 13.6 percent reported in July 2019.
This translates to about 7.1 million underemployed persons as of July 2020, given the varying working arrangements and reduced working hours being implemented by companies/establishments.
In July 2019 and April 2020, about 5.8 million and 6.4 million Filipinos, respectively, were underemployed.
The PSA said 74.1 million Filipinos, who are at least 15 years old, were part of the country’s labor force in July 2020, higher than the 72.4 million in July 2019.
But the active workforce, as measured by the labor force participation rate (LFPR), was only 45.9 million or 61.9 percent of the 74.1 million labor force in July 2020, lower than the 62.1 percent in July 2019.
The lowest LFPR in the history of the Philippine labor market was 55.6 percent in April 2020.
Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said these figures show a direct link between the level of quarantine restrictions against Covid-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) and labor market outcomes.
In May, he noted that 78.8 percent of the economy was placed under strict lockdown, or enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). Only businesses engaged in essential goods and services were allowed to operate and public transport systems were suspended.
“As a result, GDP and unemployment worsened to record levels,” he said.
Gross domestic product (GDP) plunged by 16.5 percent in the second quarter, technically sinking the economy into a recession after decades of growth.
When quarantine restrictions were eased in the first half of July, Chua said some 7.5 million workers were allowed to go back to work as only 2.1 percent of the economy was placed under strict lockdown.
The National Capital Region (NCR), which accounts for around 70 percent of the country’s economy, was allowed to open 58.2 percent of its economy under general community quarantine (GCQ).
But because there isn't enough public utility vehicles on the road, the proportion of businesses that reopened fell to 35.5 percent, Chua added.
“To bounce back from this crisis, we will need to open the economy even more. This will depend on everyone working together to adhere to health standards, as the government accelerates the implementation of the recovery program,” he said.
The government’s recovery package includes the enactment and implementation of Bayanihan to Recover As One Act (Bayanihan 2), implementation of the infrastructure program, and passage of the 2021 budget amounting to P4.506 trillion.
“All three are needed to preserve current jobs, create new jobs, and prevent families from falling into poverty,” Chua said.
He also stressed the need for Congress to pass complementary measures such as the Guide, Fist and Create bills. (Marites Villamor-Ilano/SunStar Philippines)