200,000 Bicolanos lose jobs due to pandemic

By Mar S. Arguelles


Unemployment and underemployment triggered by the Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic remain an economic issue that hounds the Bicol region, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said.


DOLE data indicate that as of December 2020, the agency has recorded some 200,000 workers in the region who lost their jobs due to the pandemic are still looking for work.


Joel Gonzales, DOLE regional director said while the problem on job losses are being looked into, another labor issue being raised is the high underemployment rate with 600,000 workers being hired as part-time workers and forced to work in low paying or low skill jobs.


Gonzales said that at the onset of the pandemic specifically during the months of March and April when the region was placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), some 25 percent of the 1.8 million workers or 467,000 workers lost their jobs.


“This was the peak period when the lockdown was declared in Luzon where hundreds of establishment in Bicol was forced to close due to the pandemic,” Gonzales said.


However, he said that when the Covid-19 restrictions were eased and essential establishments were allowed to open with limited capacity, workers were allowed to report for work, which paved the way to a slight improvement in the employment status. From the 1.8 million workers in March, it went up to 2.1 million workers during the 3rd Quarter of last year.


The improvement and the recovery of employment during the last two quarters of the year left only 200,000 workers still scouting for employment.


Gonzales said “what we have experienced from the pandemic would be a challenge to create, generate and encourage various industry stakeholders to open their doors and rebuild the economy badly damaged by Covid-19.”


He said to generate more employment, the tourism, transportation, agriculture, and construction sectors need to fully open to revive the economy.


Gonzales said some 103,687 displaced workers in Bicol region have benefited from the P531.4 million worth of assistance given by the labor department to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 to the region’s labor sector.


The DOLE financial assistance given to Bicol workers were under the four major programs of the agency’s Covid-19 response amounting to P645.4 million under the government’s Bayanihan 2 program which started last month.


The programs include: Tabang OFW, Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD), Covid-19 Adjustment Measure Program (CAMP), and Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP).


The Tabang OFW program is part of the P1-billion package for the tertiary education assistance for dependents of Covid-19 affected Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). Some 26 qualified OFWs received a P30,000 subsidy each totaling P780,000.


For TUPAD program, some 62,468 displaced worker received P317.2 million worth of grants, each receiving P5,000 financial assistance.


Subsidies disbursed for CAMP have reached P200.1 million, benefiting around 39,872 workers.


For Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) program, the agency spent P13.21 million benefitting 1,321 workers who were given P10,000 cash assistance each.


Out of the P645 million allotment released by the Bayanihan 2 for DOLE Bicol, 82 percent or P531 million have been disbursed.