Gov’t creates jobs recovery task force to mitigate unemployment

Published February 7, 2021, 7:00 AM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

An Inter-Agency Task Force on National Employment Recovery Strategy (NERS) is being constituted to address the alarming high unemployment situation in the country and help Filipinos get back to the new normal.

This developed as government agencies led by the Department of Trade and Industry signed the Joint Memorandum Order signaling the formal creation of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the National Employment Recovery Strategy (NERS).

DTI Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, who serves as Task Force Chairperson, cited the  whole-of-government approach in addressing the challenges the country faces—not only today, but in the post-pandemic future.

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez. (ALFRED FRIAS/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO FILE PHOTO)

The NERS is an expanded medium-term Trabaho, Negosyo, Kabuhayan blueprint for decent employment and entrepreneurship in the “New Normal” so that Filipinos can achieve a “Better Normal” for our country. Among those who signed the JMO are Secretaries Silvestre Bello III and Arthur Tugade of the department of labor and employment and transportation, respectively.

The objective of this employment strategy is to enhance the effectiveness of each of the policies and programs, and to more efficiently achieve the strategic national objectives.

“This strategy brings together various measures, programs and institutions that influence the demand and supply of labor, as well as the functioning of labor markets. These, in turn, will restart economic activities, restore business confidence, upgrade and retool the workforce, and facilitate access to labor markets,” said Lopez.

He noted that while there are already seeing signs of economic recovery, the country’s GDP for 2020

was at -9.5 percent and unemployment was still estimated at 8.7 percent. The Labor Force Survey of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported the country’s unemployment rate in October 2020 was estimated at 8.7 percent, from a record high of 17.7 percent in April during the height of the community lockdown. This is far from the country’s average of around 5 percent unemployment rate before the pandemic.

This also means that there are around 3.8 million Filipinos aged 15 years old and above who are still unemployed because of the pandemic that affected all sectors.

Sectors that have been severely hurt are arts, entertainment, and recreation. “These had the highest decline at 38.2 percent, followed by accommodation and food service activities at 33.2 percent,” Lopez said.

 Thus, he said, vital wide-ranging and integrated policy measures are needed. These should focus on: stimulating the economy and jobs; supporting enterprises, employment and incomes; and protecting workers in the workplace, including occupational safety and health.

Vital to the restoration and creation of jobs is the role of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). “Our efforts are directed towards the swift recovery of affected businesses to spur job creation and livelihood opportunities for Filipinos,” he said.

As such, the BAYANIHAN COVID Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) Program of the Small Business Corporation (SBCorp.) has a feature where medium enterprises may borrow up to P3 million.  SB Corp. is the government’s micro financing arm under DTI.

Under this program, small enterprises may borrow up to P1.5 million provided that they retain or rehire a significant number of workers. This strategy is notable as we are achieving two things in a single action. First is that it helps enterprises sustain their business operations. Second is that it ensures that they avoid layoffs and hire a significant number of workers.

The DTI is also pursuing digital upskilling of existing and would-be entrepreneurs is also a priority of DTI. Through the DTI Reboot Package for MSMEs, continuous conduct of webinars and training on ecommerce, e-payment, and digital marketing is being done to encourage and assist MSMEs in embracing digitalization.