With the Philippines having among the highest jobless rates in Asia due to prolonged quarantine and the pandemic-induced economic slump, the state-run think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) has urged policymakers to nurture a healthy and resilient workforce for the jobs of the future.
In their paper titled “Reset and Rebuild for a Better Philippines in the Post-pandemic World,” PIDS senior research fellows Adoracion Navarro, Margarita Debuque-Gonzales and Kris Francisco said jobs lost to the pandemic could be revived and made resilient from shocks if the Philippines would heavily invest in reskilling and upskilling programs; revamp the social protection system to cover the growing employment in the gig economy, and strengthen health support programs; improve digital readiness and address the digital divide; and invest in the future workforce.
For instance, the PIDS noted that as COVID-19 restrictions boosted e-commerce, not only businesses but also workers needed to adapt to online shopping, which more consumers preferred to avoid catching the virus outside their homes.
“These changes in behavior of both businesses and consumers are not only making brick-and-mortar stores obsolete but also reducing the demand for workers in retail and services. On a more positive note, new opportunities also opened up for some workers during the pandemic because of the increased need for workers in delivery and technology services,” the PIDS said.
“Old skills are becoming irrelevant with the digital revolution. This trend underscores the value of upskilling and reskilling the workforce, as COVID-19 shifted the demand for workers across occupations,” it added.
“It is important to point out that low-and middle-skill workers are at risk of falling into poverty if they are unable to transition to new jobs. The skills requirement for job transition however, is now more challenging because of the impact of the digital revolution aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the paper read.
The Philippines’ worst post-war recession last year jacked up the unemployment rate to a 15-year high of 10.3 percent or 4.5 million jobless Filipinos.
The prevailing joblessness remained among the highest in the region; the Washington-based International Monetary Fund this week projected the Philippines’ jobless rate to end the year at 7.8 percent, the worst among the Asian countries covered by its latest World Economic Outlook report.