Neda chief: Fear of Delta shrinks number of Filipinos looking for jobs
MANILA, Philippines—Fewer Filipinos were jobless in July but partly because also a smaller number looked for work due to lower expectations of landing jobs amid the prolonged pandemic.
The results of the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) quarterly labor force survey (LFS) in July released Tuesday showed that the number of jobless Filipinos dipped to 3.07 million from 4.14 million in April and 4.57 million in July 2020.
The unemployment rate dropped to 6.9 percent in July—the lowest since COVID-19 lockdowns were first imposed and bludgeoned jobs in April 2020, and down from 8.7 percent a quarter ago and 10 percent in 2019.
However, the labor force—Filipinos aged 15 and above who had jobs or were jobless but looking for employment–dipped to 44.74 million from 47.41 million in April. July’s labor force population was also lower than 2020’s 45.87 million.
Despite a higher employment rate of 93.1 percent in July compared to April’s 91.3 percent, the number of employed Filipinos was a lower 41.67 million during the July LFS round compared to 43.27 million a quarter ago.
It did not help that the number and rate of underemployed — those seeking longer working hours and higher-paying work than their current jobs — climbed to 8.69 million and 20.9 percent in July.
The underemployment rates in April 2021 and July 2020 were lower—17.2 percent and 17.3 percent—equivalent to 7.45 million and 7.14 million workers.
In the months before July, the monthly LFS showed that the labor force participation and even underemployment were on the decline as the economy gradually reopened and more age groups were allowed to go out and find jobs.
But Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua told the Inquirer that the recent surge in COVID-19 cases blamed on the more infectious Delta variant may be deterring job-seekers.
“I think the Delta risk makes [them] more careful to avoid finding a job and risk getting infected,” said Chua, who heads the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).
National Statistician Dennis Mapa told a press conference that 7 percent of July LFS respondents, or about 2.08 million Filipinos, said that they did not look for work due to COVID-19.
Some of them said it was difficult to find a job anyway during these harder times wrought by the pandemic, Mapa said.
In a joint statement, President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic team said that “despite the improved unemployment rate, the reduction in the labor force participation rate from 65 percent to 59.8 percent resulted in a net job loss of 3.4 million from June to July, bringing total employment to [about] 800,000 below pre-pandemic level.”
“Majority of those who left the labor force cited concerns around COVID-19 as the reason for not working at this time,” said the statement citing Chua, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and acting budget chief Tina Rose Canda.
“With the recent spike of infections due to the spread of the more contagious Delta variant, the government will continue to adjust its risk management strategy and intensify its health response to save lives and protect the well-being of all Filipinos,” the statement said.
“To better target the areas with the highest risks, the government will impose granular lockdowns starting Sept. 8, while keeping key sectors open and expediting the vaccination program to allow people to work safely,” it added.
“Granular lockdowns, together with the heightened implementation of our Prevent, Detect, Isolate, Treat, and Reintegrate + Vaccinate (PDITR+V) strategy, will help curb the spread of the virus, while bringing back jobs lost due to blanket restrictions,” it said.
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