Rural folks hard-hit by higher unemployment, recovery of agriculture seen essential

Published November 11, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin


Unemployment in the Philippines in September was at its highest since January 2021, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported last week, just before the government announced the easing of restrictions to Alert Level 2 in Metro Manila.

The number of unemployed persons rose from 3.88 million to in August 2021 to 4.25 million resulting to an unemployment rate of 8.9 percent. This represents an increase of 370,000 more Filipinos rendered jobless over a period of one month coinciding with the imposition of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the National Capital Region and other densely populated regions with high COVID incidence.

Despite the overall increase in unemployment, the following sectors of the economy registered the biggest increase in employment from August to September 2021: a. Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (353 thousand); b. Public administration and defense; compulsory social security (118 thousand); c. Education (115 thousand); d. Construction (105 thousand); and e. Administrative and support service activities (89 thousand).

The top five subsectors with the biggest drop in the number of employed persons from during the same period were: a. Agriculture and forestry (-862 thousand); b. Manufacturing (-343 thousand); c. Information and communication (-126 thousand); d. Mining and Quarrying (-75 thousand); and e. Real estate activities (-69 thousand).

These data convey important information that seem not to have received as much attention as reining in COVID-19’s attack and reproduction rates in the NCR and other “high-risk” regions. Every fortnight, whenever government’s announcement on the next quarantine status (later modified to an alert level system) would be made, the most awaited portion is the extent of the reopening of establishments that attract crowds of people: malls, restaurants, parks and public amusement places, beauty salons and barber shops, gyms, churches and venues of weddings and funeral services.

Yet, as the figures show, the biggest drop in employment at 862,000 jobs was in the agriculture and forestry sector; also hard-hit was the mining and quarrying sector that lost 75,000 jobs. Combined these two sectors lost 937,000 or nearly one million jobs. The most severely affected are Filipinos in the countryside. Also severely affected is the manufacturing sector that lost 343,000 jobs; this was offset by the 353,000 jobs gained in the wholesale and retail trade; and repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles. The Department of Trade and Industry expects that with young children now allowed to go to malls with their parents, the sales of 40 percent of retail establishments would be boosted.

Meantime, Filipinos in the countryside continue to struggle as the value of agriculture and fisheries, including livestock and crops, declined by 2.6 percent in the third quarter of 2021, coming off a 1.5 percent decline in April to June. Crop production, which accounts for 54 percent of the total agriculture and fisheries production, contracted by 0.2 percent, largely on account of an 18.6 percent fall in corn production.

There is much to be done in terms of revitalizing the economy in the countryside — because the nation’s hopes for a brighter Christmas this year could be attained only if all sectors are enabled to recover fully from the scourge of the pandemic.