DOLE estimates 10 million workers will lose jobs this year due to COVID-19 pandemic

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 21) – The Department of Labor and Employment is not discounting the possibility that 10 million workers in the country will lose their jobs this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III admitted this unemployment figure during yesterday’s Senate committee of the whole hearing, after he was asked by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto.

"I hate to say it but it's possible," said the Labor Secretary.

At present, Bello reported that 2.6 million workers have already lost their jobs due to the temporary closure of businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bello initially estimated that four to five million will be jobless as the pandemic continues to grapple the country.

Karamihan po 'yan sa service sector. Malaki po ang tourism, 'yung allied businesses like restaurants, then transportation,” said Bello.

[Translation: Most of the job losses will be in the service sector. The tourism sector will also have big job reductions, including allied businesses like restaurants. The transportation sector will also be affected.]

Recto agreed with Bello’s projections on job losses, considering that only 50 percent of workers in some businesses are allowed to go back to work.

Department of Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat mentioned in the same Senate hearing that last April, the tourism sector had no revenue due to zero tourist arrivals.

She expects around 50 percent drop in revenue in the tourism sector by the end of the year.

Puyat added the tourism sector provides jobs to 5.4 million Filipinos or about 15 percent of the total employment in the country.

Despite the expected huge job losses in the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bello said they are expanding its Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers or TUPAD program to assist those who will lose their jobs.

The Labor Department also said government is bent on resuming pending infrastructure projects that can give jobs to those who will be jobless.

“We have talked to the leaders of the construction industry that when they start implementing these contracts, they should increase their workers by 10 percent to 20 percent,” said Bello.

Bello added the DOLE has requested for a ₱40-billion budget from the House of Representatives for its recovery programs.

The national government imposed an enhanced community quarantine in the country last March 16, which included strict stay-at-home orders and suspension of on-site work operations to further avert the spread of the virus.

Last May 16, the government eased quarantine measures in some areas in the country, including Metro Manila, and allowed some businesses to gradually resume their operations.

DOLE continues to provide cash subsidy to informal workers affected by the quarantine through its COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program, where each worker will receive a ₱5,000 financial assistance.