@bendeveraINQWhile some jobs recovered in July as the country’s unemployment rate eased to 10 percent alongside gradually easing quarantine that reopened the economy, millions of Filipinos have turned to becoming their own bosses and venturing into business instead.
Sheila de Asis, 38, owned a startup video production company but all their projects were put on hold at the height of the longest and strictest COVID-19 lockdown in the region as the Philippines tried to contain the spread of the disease since mid-March.
Stuck at home, De Asis ventured into running an online marketplace offering food and household products, delivering them to friends and clients who were similarly quarantined.Her cousin, Joanne Osorio, 43, had it worse—her spa had to close down during the lockdown as the huge rent turned into losses, cutting short what could have been a 10-year run.
With their savings at risk of drying up, the mother of three turned a hobby—cooking—into her new business, this time selling chicken empanada.
Since the pastry she gave away to her neighbors on Father’s Day was a hit, Osorio sold more of them in her village.“Our earnings from the food business augment our food budget, while the rest of our expenses we draw from our savings,” she said.
Wholesale, retail trade
National Statistician Claire Dennis Mapa told the Inquirer on Thursday that the number of self-employed Filipinos without any paid employee rose to 12.1 million in July from 11.5 million a year ago.
Mapa said about 4.5 million, the bulk of the self-employed, were engaged in the wholesale and retail trade.
The July 2020 round of the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) quarterly labor force survey (LFS) showed an unemployment rate lower than the 15-year high of 17.7 percent recorded in April.
But Mapa told reporters that the jobless rate was the highest across all July rounds of the survey since 2005.
The 10-percent unemployment rate translated into 4.6 million jobless Filipinos, down from 7.3 million a quarter ago, but up from 2.4 million a year ago.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque welcomed the dip in the unemployment number.
“That is good news, that while the economy reopens, more will be able to return to work,” he said.
The PSA said that of the 74.1 million Filipinos over 15 years old who belong to the labor force in July, 45.9 million, or 61.9 percent, were either employed, looking for better jobs, or jobless. The labor force expanded from 45 million in July last year and 41 million in April.
Jobless ratesBut the number of employed Filipinos in July dropped to 41.3 million from 42.5 million a year ago, but rose to more than the 33.8 million last April.Mapa said jobs recovered faster outside Metro Manila as the country’s most populous and densely populated region grappled to contain COVID-19.The unemployment rate of the capital region was 15.8 percent in July, the highest among the Philippines’ 17 regions. The newly formed Bangsamoro Region in Muslim Mindanao had the lowest jobless rate of 3.8 percent.Mapa said the July LFS showed a faster increase in labor force participation outside Metro Manila, likely due to the “Balik Probinsya” program as people looked for jobs back in their hometowns.
The five occupations that shed the most jobs year-on-year were in arts, entertainment and recreation, plunging 72.9 percent to 117,000; accommodation and food service activities, falling 35.9 percent to 1.3 million; information and communication, dropping 28.8 percent to 306,000; fishing and aquaculture, declining 21.2 percent to 1.1 million; and professional, scientific and technical activities, dipping 19.7 percent to 248,000.
Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua told a press conference that jobs mostly coming from the agriculture, construction, manufacturing, trade and transport sectors led the recovery in July.ECQ impact
Chua, who heads the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), noted a “direct link” between quarantine restrictions and the labor market.
He said that in the first half of May, 78.8 percent of the economy was placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), resulting in record level drops in gross national product and employment.
But when only 2.1 percent of the economy was placed under ECQ, the result was “a significant reduction in the unemployment rate and the return of some 7.5 million jobs,” Chua said.
In the coming months, better economic performance and employment “will hinge on how open the economy is,” he added.
“This entails a better strategy to ‘prevent, detect, isolate, treat and recover.’ It also requires a safe and sufficient number of public transportation that, if needed, is supported by service contract subsidies,” Chua said.
Under general community quarantine, the share of the Metro Manila economy that was allowed to open was 58.2 percent, but without sufficient public transportation, that would fall to 35.5 percent, he said.
“To bounce back from this crisis, we will need to open the economy even more,” Chua added.
The Neda chief said the planned P165-billion stimulus fund under the Bayanihan to Recover as One, or “Bayanihan 2” bill, the sustained rollout of big-ticket infrastructure projects under the “Build, Build, Build” program and the proposed P4.5-trillion 2021 national budget, would help job recovery in the near term. —WITH A REPORT FROM JULIE M. AURELIO INQ