By Mary Umlas
Abe Lopez, 19, said the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on her health after she was forced to stop her studies and lost her job at a fast food chain which was shut down at the height of the lockdown.
Lopez, the family breadwinner did not waste time applying for a job, but she had to wait for months to get one.
“I applied at more than 10 BPO companies since June, but I was only accepted in September,” Lopez said.
While the country is experiencing the longest lockdown yet, Lopez is one of the many young workers hit hard by the economic fallout from the pandemic.
Department of Labor and Employment assistant secretary Dominique Tutay said during the 19th Development Policy Research Month that youth unemployment climbed to 21.5 percent or about 1.5 million workers this year.
Tutay said lockdown restrictions challenged DOLE’s youth employability programs when workers below 21 years old could not leave their homes.
Amid the crippling impact of the pandemic to the labor sector, Tutay said they took the lockdowns as an opportunity to digitize their programs to reach more audience.
“We have also used the lockdown period in updating our modules and career information pamphlets [intended] for career advocacy and employment coaching,” she said.
To ease the unemployment problem, government programs were implemented such as Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers or Tupad, COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program and Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong.
The DOLE also developed and institutionalized the National Employment Recovery Strategy (2021-2022), an employment recovery plan anchored on the Updated Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 and ReCharge.PH.
“While the health sector is nursing the health of the people, the NERS will look after employment and the economy. It takes cognizance of the ILO’s [International Labour Organization] Decent Work framework to stimulate the economy and employment, support enterprises, jobs, and income, and protect our workers. It also recognizes the value of social dialogue to encourage innovative solutions for our recovery process,” Tutay said.
The department also distributed financial support and emergency employment to more than 4 million workers in both the formal and informal sectors and overseas Filipino workers.
While government measures enabled the economy to gradually reopen, Tutay said more push and better coordination would be needed so that jobs, livelihood and training opportunities could reach the unemployed, new entrants and re-entrants to the labor market.
She said platforms are made available to help job-seekers land a job at PhilJobNet, Trabaho, Negosyo at Kabuhayan or TNK webpage and the traditional referral and placement services of the Public Employment Service Offices nationwide.
The DOLE continues to ask all workers and businesses to continue the strict implementation of health protocols.
“For us to thrive in the new normal, we need to evolve and adapt to the fast-transforming world of work. We encourage job seekers and workers to upskill and reskill and prepare themselves as we wait for the economy to bounce back,” she said.