Employers pledge 1M jobs in 6 months

Published June 21, 2021, 10:31 AM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Employers are committed to create one million jobs in the next six months, with new hiring coming from four major sectors – electronics, outsourcing, construction, and tourism — but said this would hinge largely on the government allowing flexibility in quarantine policies to ensure continuous reopening of the domestic economy.

          George Barcelon, chairman of the 42nd National Conference of Employers (NCE) of the Employers Conference of the Philippines (ECOP), said the multisectoral 1 million jobs pledge will be signed at the closing of the conference on June 30. The virtual ECOP annual conference with the theme “Reform.Rebound. Recover” will open today, June 21, with Vice-President Leni Robredo as keynote speaker. 

Barcelon said the multisectoral 1 million jobs pledge will be signed by the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Foundation Inc. (SEIPI), IT Business Process Management Association of the Philippines (IBPAP), Philippine Constructors Association, and Hotel and Restaurants Association of the Philippines. Government agency signatories include the Departments of Labor and Employment, Trade and Industry, and Tourism, and the Technical Education Skills Development Authority. The jobs pledge project , which is being coordinated by ECOP Governor Ferdinand A. Ferrer, will be presented to President Duterte at the closing of the 42nd NCE on June 30.

         “We are hopeful because the electronics and semiconductor sector is robust on strong demand for chips globally,” he said.

         SEIPI President Dan Lachica said the sector can hire 7,000 jobs within a six-month period. SEIPI, composed of mostly exporters, employs 370,000 direct workers. “The lower commitment is due to concerns with some government agencies,” said Lachica citing issues such as gap in education skills, implementation of agency policies without adequate public consultation, need to harmonize local ordinances, vaccination of economic workers, upskilling of workers, transportation of workers.

         Meantime, Barcelon said the construction sector is also expected to boost employment as government ramps up implementation of the Build Build Build program. Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar said the BBB program was able to employ 6.5 million Filipinos pre-COVID.

With the easing of restrictions in the tourism sector, Barcelon said, more workers would also be able to return to work in hotels and restaurants and tourism facilities over the next six months.  

        The IT-BPM sector, which employs more than 1.2 million workers, is looking at 5 percent growth in revenues this year

          “These four sectors are expected to contribute the bulk of new job opportunities in the next six months, hopefully,” he said.

           He, however, added that the creation of more jobs, economic rebound and recover will largely hinge on government reforms on its policies and to be more flexible, especially for work from home employees and to further simplify quarantine rules.

ECOP has proposed that travelers need not be required for mandatory quarantine when they are tested negative. 

Likewise, foreign travelers should only be required to present vaccination certification and be given antigen test upon arrival and should be allowed to move on if the results are negative without the mandatory quarantine.

“We want government to try further easing the restrictions, just ensure that our health system has enough capacity and then adjust so more people can go back to work and eventually recover. We are a consumer-oriented economy, we cannot wait for zero infection to return to work,” he said. 

While mobility restrictions are eased up, ECOP has strongly pushed for successful vaccination program, a strong health and medical system to ensure that hospital are not overwhelmed when there are surges in infection, efficient contact tracing program, and public mass transportation.

Hs emphasized that public mass transportation as very critical for economic recovery.     

          At present, he said, companies are incurring huge expenses as they provide shuttle service for workers. Nevertheless, traffic is also back at EDSA.

          He said these proposals would form part of the 42nd NCE Resolutions that ECOP will present to the President on June 30.

All member associations have passed other similar recommendations government to speed up vaccination and to further ease doing business in the country.

But, he added though that “No amount of approved resolutions can solve the joblessness in the country if we cannot control COVID-19 infection.”

           So far, he said, the situation is still very fluid given the new more virulent Delta strain of the coronavirus that has already entered the country. At the same time, the Philippine economy is also in dire situation stressing it is at the bottom among its ASEAN neighbors.

“The signing of the 1 million jobs pledge is to drum up the need to inject new life into the economy otherwise our unemployment rate will go up again,” he said.

He added that after over a year of quarantines, several micro, small and medium enterprises have already closed shop due to continuing quarantines.

But, he also noted that some of the funds allocated for subsidies to the most vulnerable sector under the Bayanihan 2 have yet to be disbursed to recipients. Thus, business organizations are planning to come up with a petition urging the government to disburse the funds to beneficiaries before the law expires end this month, June 30, otherwise the law must be extended.   

Business groups are also looking at fund allocation under the proposed third economic stimulus package Bayanihan 3, but would like the government to use up first the funds under Bayanihan 2.

“A year has passed since the Coronavirus pandemic hit the world, ECOP nevertheless remains committed to and passionate about the promotion of industrial harmony, social justice, job preservation, and national growth, ensuring that employers in the Philippines are informed and updated with national strategies and programs to normalize the economy. We in ECOP continue to collaborate with the business community in exploring creative ways and adapting new coping mechanisms in order to survive, thrive, and sustain business operations in these difficult times, and thereby contribute to the Philippines’ economic recovery. In spite of what the country has been battling for a year now, we, at ECOP, still believe that there is no other way but onward and upward,” ECOP said.