COVID-19: Nearly Half of Filipinos Jobless Amid Pandemic, Poll Finds

Basilio Sepe and Dennis Jay Santos
Manila and Davao, Philippines
200817-PH-covid-economy-620.jpg A man pulls a cart along a Manila street during the COVID-19 quarantine, March 13, 2020.
Basilio Sepe/BenarNews

Close to half of the Philippine workforce, or 27.3 million people, have lost their jobs largely because of economic ripple effects and the closure of businesses amid a coronavirus-related shutdown, according to a survey by a local pollster.

Social Weather Stations (SWS), a reputable Philippine polling firm, found that 45.4 percent of the country’s workforce was unemployed or had lost jobs during the pandemic, easily breaking a nationwide jobless record of 34.4 percent set back in March 2012.

“Half lost their job/livelihood during the COVID-19 crisis,” SWS said in a report on the survey posted on its website.

“Adult joblessness has been consistently higher among women than among men, with the women-men joblessness gap ranging from 10 to as high as 26 points since December 2011,” SWS said. “As in past surveys, the 18- to 24-year-olds are the most jobless compared to other age groups.”

The Philippine government on Monday did not dispute the results of the poll, which came out a day earlier, as President Rodrigo Duterte announced that, starting Wednesday, authorities would ease a COVID-19 quarantine that was imposed on Metro Manila and other highly populated parts of Luzon Island in early August.

The poll, conducted among 1,555 adults nationwide from July 3 to 6, was the first survey on joblessness this year and the first to measure the effects of the lockdown that began in March, the pollster said. Adult joblessness averaged 19.9 percent last year.

Reacting to the survey, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the government was not surprised with the figure, but added that the public should be “glad” the whole nation was not out of work.

“Will you be surprised that they lost their jobs when the lockdown of our economy reached months? I am glad that we are not 100 percent jobless,” Roque told reporters.

“It could have been worse because what we’re experiencing is a complete lockdown,” he said.

Roque said the economy must be reopened soon to allow Filipinos to return to their jobs.

“I belong to the school of thought that we can live with COVID-19, we need to learn how to live our lives with COVID-19. The solution is for us to open the economy. Many will remain jobless if lockdowns continue,” Roque said.

Enhanced quarantine to be eased

After meeting with his cabinet secretaries on Monday night, President Duterte announced that the so-called enhanced quarantine classification for Metropolitan Manila as well as the nearby populated provinces of Cavite, Bulacan, Laguna and Rizal was to be eased on Aug. 19.

These areas were placed under strict lockdown rules early this month in response to calls from the medical community as confirmed cases of COVID-19 surged.

“The economy has fallen flat, all of us now are experiencing economic hemorrhage,” Duterte said in a televised address late Monday, during which he announced that the Philippine capital region and other areas were to return to a so-called general community quarantine through Aug. 31.

The economy fell into a recession after the gross domestic product shrank by 16.5 percent in the second quarter, its worst three-month performance in 39 years, officials said on Aug. 6. The contraction from April through June was the worst since 1981, when the government began keeping records on economic performance.

The economic data came as the health department reported 18 more COVID-19 deaths on Monday, bringing the nationwide total to 2,681. In addition, it recorded 3,314 additional infections increasing the total to 164,474. The Philippines leads all countries in East Asia in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases, according to the latest data from disease experts at U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

Globally more than 21.7 million COVID-19 cases and nearly 776,000 deaths have been recorded, according to the experts.

Secretary test positive a second time

Also on Monday, Roque announced that Interior Secretary Eduardo Año – a member of the national task force against COVID-19 – had tested positive for the virus for a second time and was being quarantined.

The interior secretary had previously tested positive in March. At that time, Año said he did not have symptoms but quarantined at home.

Because Año meets regularly with Duterte and the rest of the cabinet, others members have opted to quarantine to be safe, Roque said.

“That’s the reason I went into self-isolation. It’s a personal decision because I was in the same place with Secretary Año,” Roque said, adding that Duterte had no known close contact with the interior secretary.

He said Duterte was “in perpetual isolation because no one can come close to him.”

“Whenever we meet with him, there is a velvet rope that keeps him at least six feet away from everyone else,” Roque said. “So no one can really come close to the president.”

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