Millions left jobless by virus; ‘Balik-Trabaho czar’ pushed

With roughly 4.6 million Filipinos rendered jobless by coronavirus disease pandemic as of July, 2020, Malacañang has been urged to appoint a fifth czar who will take charge of the government's efforts to reverse the unemployment problem. 

Sen. Risa Hontiveros(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)
Sen. Risa Hontiveros (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Senator Risa Hontiveros said the country needs one person who will be given formal authority and responsibility by President Duterte to better oversee and coordinate efforts to connect unemployed Filipinos with new and viable means of employment or livelihood. 

“Tutal mahilig ang Malacañang sa pag-a-appoint ng czar sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng COVID-19 response, sana ay may italaga din na ‘BalikTrabaho Czar’ na magsisikap na ibalik ang trabaho ng milyung-milyong Pilipino ngayong panahon ng krisis, (Since Malacañang has a penchant for appointing a czar for different COVID-19 response programs, then it should consider appointing a ‘Balik Trabaho Czar’ who will be responsible for restoring the jobs that millions of Filipinos lost during this crisis),” Hontiveros said at a Development Budget Coordination Council (DBCC) hearing on Thursday. 

On the other hand, the Office of the Vice President (OVP) urged more employers to post and upload their job vacancies to the online platform which was launched to help Filipinos who were displaced amid the ongoing COVID-19 situation in the country. 

Vice President Leni Robredo said that the Bayaninahapbuhay was launched by the OVP as a response to the calls from Filipinos left unemployed amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The newly launch online platform aims to make “job hunting easier for workers looking for employment opportunities.” 

“The OVP calls on more employers to join Bayanihanapbuhay and sign onto the platform,” the Office of the VP said. 

Those interested to upload their job vacancies may send their details to bayanihanapbuhay@ Hontiveros lamented that when she spoke with Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III, the latter said he is not the one in charge of employment preservation or creation. 

“Sa ngayon, hindi malinaw kung sinong opisyal ng pamahalaan ang dapat nakatutok sa pagbuo at pagbalik ng trabaho para sa ating mga kababayan… (For now, it’s not clear who is the government official supposedly in charge of creating and restoring jobs for our fellowmen)… Then whose job is it? Who is in charge?” the senator asked. 

“Kung hindi natin maagapan ang problema sa unemployment, marami ang magugutom, hindi makakapagaral at hindi makakuha ng gamutan na kanilang kailangan (If we fail to address unemployment, so many people will starve, students won’t be able to study and would have no access to healthcare service). This is why we need a ‘Balik Trabaho Czar’ who will take a hands-on approach to solving the unemployment crisis before it gets worse,” she said. 

Citing government data, the lawmaker said there are roughly 4.6 million Filipinos who are jobless as of July, 2020, and the number is expected to rise in the coming months. 

The unemployment rate, she also said, is at 10 percent, which is almost twice compared to last year's rate. 

While the unemployment crisis may not be an infectious disease like COVID-19, “it is spreading fast like one in communities nationwide.” 

She said state economic managers should focus not only on securing the country's credit rating as well as investor grades and exchange rates, but also on how these numbers will translate to more employment and livelihood opportunities. 

“This is an urgent problem that seriously needs utmost attention from the government,” she said. 

The OVP, in cooperation with Elevatech which is the developer of the website, put up a platform for jobseekers and for companies in need of workers. Posting, uploading, or accessing the site is free of charge. 

“Bayanihanapbuhay – a combination of the words 'bayanihan' (a Filipino term for spirit of civic unity and cooperation) and ‘hanapbuhay’ (livelihood) – aims to help Filipinos who lost their jobs amid the crisis brought by the pandemic. 

The main target are those who were recently laid off from work, blue-collar workers, and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) forced to leave their jobs abroad due to epidemic.