LABOR MARKET scarring due to the pandemic will require the Philippines to roll out training programs and improve social protections in order not to worsen the gap between employee skills and workplace expectations, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said in a report.
The ADB in its Southeast Asia: Rising from the Pandemic report launched Wednesday said the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic disproportionately affected young people in the Philippines.
While Filipinos in many sectors lost their jobs, employment in information and communications technology along with professional and business services was more resilient.
“This divergence will increase skills mismatches as workers do not transition easily between sectors given differences in required skills. Companies have also been rapidly adopting digital technology in their business models, further raising demand for higher value-added skills,” the ADB said.
“These developments are likely to increase the mismatch between new skills demanded by employers and those possessed by displaced workers.”
The jobless rate for 2021 eased to 7.8% from 10.4% a year earlier.
Philippine unemployment had hit a record high of 17.6% in April 2020, when the government implemented strict lockdowns to contain the pandemic.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) in January said Philippine unemployment could hit 1.1 million in 2022, or 10% higher than pre-pandemic levels.
The impact of the pandemic on jobs could be even bigger after a large-scale exit from the labor force, which does not count as unemployment, the ILO said.
“While job losses have occurred across most sectors, the hardest-hit sectors are those dependent on personal contact, such as accommodation, food services, transportation, and recreational services,” the ADB report said.
In response, the ADB said the Philippines should invest in upskilling through industry-led training and apprenticeship programs. Public-private partnerships, the report added, can help link those that do not have access to digital technology to training.
The ADB also noted that unemployment insurance is limited in the Philippines.
“It is critically important that the Social Security System has a well-funded unemployment insurance scheme to provide workers with income stability during major economic shocks and disruptions to the labor market,” it said.
The report said that Southeast Asian governments should invest more in health systems to respond to future pandemics and support economic growth.
“We encourage Southeast Asian governments to invest in smart, green infrastructure and adopt technological innovations to reinvigorate economic growth,” ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa said. — Jenina P. Ibañez