More jobs needed for pandemic-hit youth, says WB
MANILA – The Philippine government urgently needs to adopt “more targeted” policies that would address employment struggles among youth, who bore the brunt of the shock that the pandemic inflicted on the domestic job market, according to the World Bank (WB).
In a report launched on March 22, the multilateral lender said the employment situation in the country is recovering but still far from the vibrancy seen before the pandemic, with “elementary,” low-paying occupations replacing high-productivity jobs that were lost during the past three years of disruption.
WB senior economist Yoonyoung Cho, who presented highlights of the report, said that as of the second quarter of 2022, jobs have returned, but some of the prepandemic progress was reversed.
Cho said there has been a decrease in salaried jobs and an increase in unpaid work, elementary occupations and poverty.
She said recovery has been uneven, such that this was robust in sectors like information and communication technology and wholesale and retail trade, but was weak in accommodation and food services and for young workers.
The report said the Philippines needed to create more and better jobs for young people to enable the country to regain the vibrant labor market it enjoyed prepandemic, thus strengthening economic recovery and long-term growth
The WB observed that before the pandemic, the Philippines experienced faster growth in more productive jobs and an increase in real wages, which led to poverty reduction.
As employment indicators appear to have returned to prepandemic levels amid a strong rebound of the economy, the quality of jobs remains a concern particularly for young people.
“The youth group was disproportionately affected by the pandemic shock on the labor market, and the scarring effect may stay long after the economic activities return,” said Ndiamé Diop, WB director for Brunei, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.
“While conducive business environment policies will encourage quality job creation in the private sector, more targeted approaches to address youth challenges are urgently needed,” Diop said.
The report noted potentially helpful efforts to address the situation, such as modernizing labor regulations, strengthening the management of international migration and investing in skills in emerging green and digital sectors, to boost youth employment.
Cho said that active labor market programs including measures like skills training, job search assistance, wage subsidies, public works programs and entrepreneurship promotion should be further strengthened.
She said these can be complemented by modernizing labor regulations through simplifying labor rules and providing guidance on flexible forms of work arrangement; expanding social insurance; and modernizing inspection and compliance verification systems through digital tools.
The report also suggested that continuing to use overseas employment opportunities while ensuring the welfare and safety of migrant workers remained critical.
However, Cho said that even if Filipinos continued to rely heavily on jobs abroad during the height of the pandemic, there was little diversification in terms of the countries of destination and the choice of activities.
She said that, for instance, many Filipinos who went abroad were women who served as household helpers in the Middle East.
Julius Cainglet, vice president of the Federation of Free Workers, said workers have remained far from the preferred situation of enjoying overseas jobs as a choice instead of a necessity forced by economic circumstances.
“We’d like to see a time when the Department of Migrant Workers is no longer necessary [because the welfare of workers are being addressed],” Cainglet said. INQ
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