“Employers pledge 1-M jobs in 6 months” was this newspaper’s banner headline on Monday, June 21, as the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) opened its virtual annual conference.
This pledge would be formally signed, sealed and delivered to President Duterte on Wednesday, June 30, the last day of the conference.
On the eve of Labor Day last year, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary made a similar announcement: The creation of one million jobs in the provinces while providing a three-month subsidy for micro, small and medium-scale enterprises (MSME). More than a year – and several alternating quarantine phases later – there is no reckoning if this million-job pledge had been achieved.
Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data shows that the unemployment rate worsened from 7.1 percent in March to 8.7 percent in April, with some 4.14 million out of work.
According to the ECOP, the one million jobs will be created in four major sectors – electronics, outsourcing, construction, and tourism. The commitment will be signed by leaders of 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 (HRAP).
How strong is this commitment? The employers made it clear that this would hinge largely on the continuous reopening of the economy and flexibility of government quarantine policies.
SEIPI projects it could hire 7,000 workers. IBPAP, whose member-firms employ more than 1.2 million workers, is projecting a five percent growth that translates to about 60,000 more jobs. Evidently, the big number of new jobs is expected to be created from the acceleration of the “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program and the revival of tourism which in 2019 contributed 12.9 percent to GDP and accounted for more than 5 million jobs – all of which had been hard-hit by the pandemic.
The ECOP cited four important factors in fulfilling its pledge: Acceleration of the vaccination rate; adequacy of hospital facilities; effectiveness of COVID containment measures such as prevention, detection, isolation and tracing; and availability of public transportation. Particularly emphasized was the fact that companies are incurring huge expenses in providing shuttle services to workers.
The million-jobs pledge will also be signed by, among others, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Tourism (DOT), and the Technical Education Skills Development Authority (TESDA). It is hoped that the Department of Transportation (DoTr) would also be a signatory agency to address the critical shortage of mass transportation already flagged by the ECOP.
Vice President Leni Robredo, who keynoted the conference opening, said that the ECOP’s triple aims – Reform. Rebound. Recover. – must take into account inclusiveness to ensure that the neediest sectors receive adequate protection.
Given its decades-long history of active collaboration with the government, ECOP’s latest move could not be characterized as “throwing the gauntlet.” It is an emphatic statement of concern that could not go unheeded.