'45 per cent unemployment rate shows resilience,’ says Roque

Malacañang is "saddened" by the survey results showing the rise of the country's unemployment to 45.5 percent but is still pleased the latest figure did not reach 100 percent during the coronavirus pandemic.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque (RESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque has lauded the resilience of the nation, saying the country’s unemployment rate "could have been worse" given the impact of the strict coronavirus lockdown on economic activities.

"We are of course saddened but that's to be expected with the lockdowns that we've had because of COVID-19,” Roque said during an online press briefing Monday.

"Ako ay nagagalak na hindi tayo 100 percent nawalan ng trabaho kasi sa tagal na naka lockown kayo, talagang I'm still surprised at our resilience at 45 percent pa lang ang nawawalan sa trabaho. It could have been worse kasi complete lockdown ang nangyari sa atin (I am glad that we did not hit 100 percent unemployment because we've been under lockdown for a long time. I'm still surprised at our resilience and only 45 percent lost their jobs. It could have been worse because we're in complete lockdown)," he added.

In the Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, the adult joblessness in the country reached 45.5 percent in July, 28-point increase from 17.5 percent recorded in December 2019. The July unemployment number is reportedly equivalent to 27.3 million unemployed, compared to the 9 million jobless adults last December.

The government earlier imposed strict quarantine restrictions to curb the disease outbreak but such lockdown has forced many businesses to close or scale down operations and displaced workers. The economy suffered a heavy beating from the lockdown as it contracted by 16.5 percent during the second quarter of the year.

To help improve the country's employment condition, Roque said the government is inclined to further open up the economy. "I think the government is looking at opening the economy and providing assistance to small and medium enterprises, and also assistance to strategic businesses,” he said.

Roque admitted there has been "intense" discussion among Cabinet members about balancing public health and livelihood. He said some advocated to keep the lockdowns to limit the virus spread while others wanted open up to the economy so people can get back to work.

Roque said he belongs to the school to thought that "we need to learn how to live our lives with COVID-19."

"Ang solusyon ay kinakailangang buksan ang ekonomiya dahil talaga naman pong wala pa ring trabaho ang karamihan kung mananatili ang mga lockdowns (The solution is we really need to reopen the economy since most Filipinos will still have no jobs if we keep the lockdowns)," he said.