More Filipinos become their own bosses as pandemic saws off jobs | Inquirer Business

More Filipinos become their own bosses as pandemic saws off jobs

By: - Reporter / @bendeveraINQ
/ 05:53 PM September 03, 2020

Millions of Filipinos have turned to becoming their own bosses in business ventures as some jobs returned in July, easing unemployment to 10 percent as lockdowns eased.

Sheila de Asis, 38, owned a startup video production firm but all her 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 number of infections since mid-March.


While staying at home, De Asis had ventured into running an online marketplace offering food and household products, delivering them to friends and clients who had been similarly stuck at home during quarantine.

De Asis’s 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 three kids and her savings at risk of drying up, Osorio turned a hobby — cooking — into her new business, this time selling chicken empanada.

Since the pastry she gave away to neighbors on Father’s Day was a hit, Osorio sold more empanadas in their village.

“Our earnings from the food business augment our food budget, while the rest of our expenses we draw from our savings,” Osorio said.

National Statistician Claire Dennis S. Mapa told the Inquirer on Thursday (Sept. 3) 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.

The impact of COVID-19 lockdowns was also felt by self-employed individuals as their number dropped to 9.7 million in April when restrictions in movement of people and goods were strict.

Mapa said bulk of the self-employed last July, numbering 4.5 million, were engaged in 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 a press conference that the jobless rate was the highest across all July rounds of the survey since 2005, when the government adopted the current metrics it uses to measure employment.

The 10-percent unemployment rate translated into 4.6 million Filipinos in the labor force without jobs, down from 7.3 million a quarter ago, but up from 2.4 million a year ago.

Of the 74.1 million Filipinos over 15 years old who had been counted as part of the labor force in July, 45.9 million or 61.9 percent were employed, looking for better jobs, or jobless.

The number of persons in the labor force increased from 45 million in July last year and 41 million in April, taking into account the fresh graduates who joined the job market.

The number of employed Filipinos in July declined to 41.3 million from 42.5 million a year ago, but bigger than the 33.8 million with jobs last April.

As more Filipinos returned to their jobs, the number of employed who wanted better employment likewise increased — the underemployment rate climbed to 17.3 percent in July from 13.6 percent during the same month last year, although lower than April’s 18.9 percent.

At least 7.1 million Filipinos, who were looking for longer work hours or better pay, were more than the 5.8 million in July last year and 6.4 million in April.

Mapa said jobs recovered faster outside Metro Manila as the country’s most populous and densely populated capital region continued to fail in slowing COVID-19 down.

The National Capital Region’s (NCR) unemployment rate stood at 15.8 percent in July, the highest across the Philippines’ 17 regions.

The newly formed Bangsamoro Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) had the lowest jobless rate of 3.8 percent.

Mapa said economic activities resumed earlier outside NCR, especially where COVID-19 cases were lower and quarantine measures were less stringent.

Also, Mapa said the July 2020 labor survey showed a faster increase in labor force participation in areas outside Metro Manila, likely as Filipinos who had availed themselves of the Balik Probinsya program looked for new jobs back home.

On a per sector basis, the five occupations which shed the most jobs year-on-year were :

Arts entertainment and recreation, shedding 72.9 percent of jobs to 117,000
Accommodation and food service, down 35.9 percent to 1.3 million
Information and communication, down 28.8 percent to 306,000
Fishing and aquaculture, down 21.2 percent to 1.1 million
Professional, scientific and technical businesses, down 19.7 percent to 248,000.

Comparing July employment numbers to April’s, acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said at a press conference that jobs from agriculture, construction, manufacturing, trade and transport led the rebound.

“The decrease in the unemployment rate means that some 2.7 million jobs returned as the quarantine level eased,” Chua said.

“In addition, some 4.9 million workers rejoined the labor force. All in all, some 7.5 million jobs were restored,” said Chua, who heads the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).

“The July survey figures show a direct link between the level of quarantine restriction and labor market outcomes,” he said.

He said when 78.8 percent of the economy was locked down under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) last May, gross domestic product (GDP) and unemployment “worsened to record levels.”

In July, when only 2.1 percent of the economy was on ECQ, “the result is a significant reduction in the unemployment rate and the return of 7.5 million jobs.”

“These data show that the government has responded to the needs of the people and will continue to do so,” Chua said.

Chua said he sees better GDP and unemployment in the coming months but these “will hinge on how open the economy is.”

“This entails a better strategy” in fighting coronavirus involving “detect, isolate, treat and recover” principles, he said.

“It also requires a safe and sufficient number of public transportation that, if needed, is supported by service contract subsidies,” Chua said.

“Without the public transport system back sufficiently, many people cannot go back to work,” he added.

“To illustrate, under GCQ [general community quarantine], the share of the NCR economy that is allowed to open is 58.2 percent, but without sufficient public transport, it falls to 35.5 percent,” he said.

“To bounce back from this crisis, we will need to open the economy even more. This will depend on everyone working together to adhere to health standards, as the government accelerates the implementation of the recovery program,” Chua added.

The Neda chief said three things would help boost job return:

The pending P165-billion stimulus of Bayanihan to Recover as One, or Bayanihan 2, bill
Sustained rollout of big-ticket infra projects under “Build, Build, Build” (BBB)
The proposed P4.5-trillion 2021 national budget

Chua said BBB was expected to create 1.1 million direct and indirect jobs this year, on top of an additional 1.7 million in 2021.

In 2021, 2.4-2.8 million jobs were projected to be created to reduce the unemployment rate to 6-8 percent, Chua said.

By 2022, the jobless rate should revert to pre-pandemic levels of as low as 4-5 percent, Chua added, based on the assumption that a COVID-19 vaccine would be widely available by the middle of 2021.

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TAGS: #COVID19PH, coronavirus Philippines, Employment, jobs, labor force, PSA, self-employed, Statistics
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