By CHINO S. LEYCO
State-run Social Security System (SSS) assured that it is prepared to pay unemployment benefits to workers who may lose jobs as a result of the possible layoffs in, or closures of, private companies hit by the economic fallout from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said that about 30,000 to 60,000 workers may lose their jobs if the fast-spreading COVID-19 would result in economic fallout that will drive layoffs and closures of companies.
Dominguez III, who is concurrent chairman of the Social Security Commission (SSC), said he was assured by SSS president and CEO Aurora Cruz Ignacio that the state-run pension fund is ready to shell out ₱1.2 billion under a worst-case scenario.
SSS premium-paying members can avail of unemployment benefits equivalent to a half of their average monthly salary credit (AMSC) for a maximum of two months if they are displaced because of redundancy, installation of labor-saving devices, retrenchment, closure or cessation of operation, and disease or illness.
They should have paid the requisite minimum number of monthly contributions for three years to qualify for this unemployment benefit, twelve of which should have been made in the last eighteen months.
The unemployment benefit is one of the landmark provisions of Republic Act (RA) No. 11199 or the Social Security Act of 2018.
Dominguez said he expects affected workers mostly in the travel, tourism and hospitality industries, and, to some extent, those in the manufacturing sector to apply for the unemployment benefit.
“The estimate of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is that there will be a drop in employment of 30,000 to 60,000 jobs. This is going to affect mainly the tourism industry, the hotels and airlines. The job displacement will probably last six months,” Dominguez said.
“There might be some manufacturing jobs that are going to be affected because of the disruptions in the supply chain. But I just got a message today that imports in China are already picking up,” he added.
In response to a query by Dominguez, SSS Senior Vice President and Chief Actuary Edgar Cruz said the SSS is ready, at the minimum, to provide ₱660 million for the unemployment benefits of affected SSS members, and up to ₱1.2 billion under a worst-case scenario.
The average unemployment benefit that qualified members receive is about ₱11,000.
Assuming that the 60,000 workers in the worst-case scenario will be dislocated and avail themselves of the benefit, this would amount to around ₱660 million, Cruz said.
If the computation is based on the maximum cash benefit of ₱20,000 per applicant, the total amount will reach ₱1.2 billion, he said.