The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) expects the country’s employment situation to improve as the government’s mass inoculation program against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues to gain ground.
DOLE Information and Publication Service (IPS) Director Rolly Francia held this belief even with the perceived difficulties caused by the week-long implementation of an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in “NCR-plus”.
“Despite the imposition of (ECQ) in Metro Manila and adjacent provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal from March 24 to April 4 to slow down the spread of the virus and recalibrate our COVID-19 response strategies, we still expect a better and more improved employment performance in the coming months with the rollout of the vaccination program,” Francia said in a statement to labor beat reporters Tuesday, March 30.
He issued the statement in reaction to reports that unemployment rate slightly increased from 8.7 percent (or equal to 4 million jobless Filipinos) in January to 8.8 percent (4.2 million jobless) in February. The data was released the same day by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
The government launched its mass vaccination program against the dreaded disease only last March 1. Most of the vaccines that the national pandemic task force has deployed have come from donations from other countries.
DOLE chose to highlight the positives of the February 2021 Labor Force Survey (LFS) results.
“Taking off from the improved labor market landscape in January 2021, the latest result of the (LFS) is encouraging with an increase of 2.140 million in the country’s labor force and 1.905 million workers who had regained employment from the gradual and safe reopening of the economy,” the agency’s statement read.
“Majority of the sectors have shown significant improvement in terms of employment generation. The services sector reported the highest increase at 1.6 million followed by agriculture (+259,000) sector and industry (+46,000),” it added.
But DOLE acknowledged that the quality of jobs “remains to be a challenge as the underemployment rate slightly increased to 18.2 percent from 16 percent in January 2021.”
“This also indicates that income is limited due to quarantine restrictions,” it said.
DOLE called on all workers and businesses to continue the strict implementation of the minimum public health standards (MPHS), and occupational safety and health policies. “We need to instill the discipline in adhering to basic MPHS – proper wearing of face mask and face shield, washing of hands, and social distancing,” it said.
DOLE said it “continues to work with various government agencies and support initiatives such as the Task Group on Economic Recovery (TGER) and the National Employment Recovery Strategy (NERS) Task Force for the economy’s safe re-opening and sustained labor market improvement in the new normal.”