NEDA: 45% of private sector workers displaced by lockdown measures

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 7) – Nearly half of workers in the private sector lost their sources of income during the enhanced community quarantine that was imposed by the government to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

About 20 percent of businesses were forced to lay off employees during the quarantine to stay afloat, the National Economic and Development Authority said Thursday.

Citing results of a series of surveys, acting NEDA Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said that two-thirds of private establishments were forced to go dark during the Luzon-wide lockdown since March 17, which was scaled down this month to cover fewer provinces. Of them, a fifth had to let go of their employees amid the COVID-19 crisis.

"We also know that about 45 percent of non-government and self-employed workers lost their sources of income," Chua said during a media briefing on economic data for the first quarter. "The government stands ready to help them through our various social amelioration and wage subsidy programs."

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The Department of Finance said government has released around P258 billion for various subsidies meant to support struggling families during the health crisis.

Several surveys covering more than 350,000 consumers, farmers, and small business owners said they were experiencing "significant income pressures," as well as uncertainty about job retention, Chua added. He said this became the basis of cash subsidies to 18 million poor and low-income families as well as no-work, no-pay individuals in various industries.

The rest of the country saw strict stay-at-home rules partly eased since May 1, but big business hubs like Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Cebu and Davao City remain under quarantine. No decision has been announced yet on the fate of residents in these areas after May 15.

"When we move from ECQ to GCQ (general community quarantine), we are opening up to 75 percent of the economy. That of course is good for the economic trajectory, and we are allowing up to 50 percent of people to go out to work. What we need to balance here is the increased risk of spreading infections," Chua said, but it may come with a huge cost.

"Is it worth to open up the economy but have more sick people or dying people, including your families and friends? We have to make this decision very carefully," Chua pointed out.

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The economy was hit hard in the first quarter, shrinking by 0.2 percent for its weakest performance since 1998. Chua and several independent economists said the second quarter could be worse, as businesses remained closed for the entire April.

Areas under GCQ still face some restrictions, but more firms have been allowed to resume operations under strict health and sanitation standards.