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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Lockdown toll

"The country’s economic managers have been batting for the safe reopening of the economy."

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Restricting the mobility of people through the enhanced community quarantine will naturally result in business closures and the forced displacement of millions of Filipino workers. Such business shutdowns were more evident in August when the government re-imposed the ECQ to curb the spike in COVID-19 cases.

Retail outlets operating inside shopping malls, fast-food restaurants and personal care services centers like salons and gyms had to close down to comply with social distancing rules. The lockdown measures, unfortunately, took their toll on the working class.

The higher unemployment rate in August as expected increased to a four-month high of 8.1 percent from 6.9 percent in July. The jobless rate in August, while lower than those reported in January, February and April, was higher than the rates in March (7.1 percent) May (7.7 percent) and June (7.7 percent) and July (6.9 percent).

In all, the number of unemployed persons in the Philippines who are 15 years old and over totaled 3.88 million. Put another way, the employment rate in August dropped to 91.9 percent from 93.1 percent in July this year.

The rise and fall in the unemployment rate is directly linked to the lockdown measures being imposed over areas with increasing COVID-19 cases. The unemployment situation is not expected to dramatically improve over the near-term period, unless the domestic economy reopens further, classes resume and tourism and hotels are allowed to participate in the recovery process.

The country’s economic managers have been batting for the safe reopening of the economy, while limiting the mobility restrictions to granular lockdowns and accelerating the vaccination program. COVID-19 cases seem to be on the decline now—a cue to further reopen the economy and allow the majority to return to work and earn a living.

The Philippine experience has shown that a general or widespread lockdown will not effectively slow down the virus spread because the clusters of infected areas are not pinpointed and attended to. Granular lockdowns seem to be working, judging from the lower COVID-19 cases now. More importantly, the limited lockdown measure is enabling more Filipinos to join the labor force.

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