Senator Joel Villanueva on Friday called on the government to increase its spending for infrastructure, health care facilities and social services to further restore business confidence and public morale amid the persisting COVID-19 pandemic.
Villanueva, chairman of the Senate labor committee, raised concern that many unemployed Filipinos have opted to stop looking for jobs.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) recently reported that unemployment rate declined further to 8.7 percent in October, representing 3.8 million jobless Filipinos.
But the PSA also noted a dip in the labor force participation rate to 58.7 percent, from 61.9 percent recorded in July, with more people stopping job search for various reasons, even as quarantine protocols were eased and businesses have reopened.
“We are bothered by the fact that the latest data clearly reflects how the pandemic is manifesting (itself) on the psyché of our workers, who (have) decided to stop looking for work at all,” Villanueva said in a statement.
“We cannot afford to let the morale of our labor force to slump further, that is why our government should intervene by increasing spending to restore business confidence,” he appealed.
The senator said that “by spending effectively on our people, our government will lead the way for business confidence to be restored, and once that happens, jobs opportunities for our workers will certainly follow.”
“The ball is in the government’s court now. It is the government that has the capacity to get our economy back on track. We should continue spending on social services such as healthcare for our people, while infrastructure spending should be our top priority next year to create jobs for our workers,” he added.
Villanueva said the containing the disease, and the strict enforcement of health and safety protocols against COVID-19 would also boost the confidence of businessmen and unemployed Filipinos.
“Our workers will prioritize their health and they are being careful because of the COVID-19. They will choose employers who they think are following COVID-19 protocols,” he said in Filipino.
“Controlling the spread of the disease is crucial in stimulating businesses which will create jobs and opportunities for our workers.”
“Even with the easing of our quarantine restrictions, we should not be complacent in implementing social distancing, wearing of mask, and maintaining cleanliness,” he continued.
The latest unemployment rate was lower than the 10 percent or 4.6 million in July. Joblessness peaked at 17.7 percent or 7.2 million in April, when the enhanced community quarantine was enforced.
The same PSA report also found that about 38 percent of people surveyed with jobs are also hesitant to report to work because of lockdowns and fear of catching COVID-19.