It is not only the rate of COVID-19 infection that is rising but also the unemployment and underemployment rate. The February employment figures released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) this morning indicate a worsening trend, with the easing January unemployment and underemployment of 8.7% and 16% respectively, reversed by the 8.8% and 18.2% rates this February.
The only positive note for the February data is the labor force participation rate bouncing back from 60.5% to 63.5%. But the re-imposition of ECQ-Series 2 in the NCR Plus bubble may simply reverse this gain in the next quarter. Likewise, the expected influx of graduates sometime this May or June would provide new entrants to the labor force with no immediate jobs to grab.
These latest employment numbers, therefore, demand serious attention and actual resolution as the government’s health and economic response can only be made effective and sustainable with the full participation of the greatest number of employed and healthy workforce.
Hindi na maaring magpatuloy ang kapalpakan. The economy needs a bigger stimulus; thus, the proposed Bayanihan 3 in Congress should not be blocked by the Palace. Workers need jobs and basic income, hence, workers’ demand for full employment through a public employment program that provides income and employment guarantees must be incorporated into Bayanihan 3. This should be passed as a urgent measure by the government.
Itigil ang kapalpakan. Designated czars should be replaced by people of known competence in their respective fields. Repeated and prolonged lockdowns may reduce the rate of virus infection, but not the incidence of hunger and the deteriorating labor and human rights condition in the country.
It is insanity to do the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results, to borrow Albert Einstein's words.