No one will dispute that lockdowns or restrictions in the movement of the population result in a higher unemployment rate. The return of Metro Manila to a severe form of lockdown, or the enhanced community quarantine, starting on Aug. 6 displaced hundreds of thousands of jobs as fast-food restaurants, small retail outlets, and those offering personal services close their stores or reduce their operations to the minimum.
Government economists this early have conceded that the unemployment rate will rise from 7.7 percent in June when the August Labor Survey comes out in October. The June rate translates into 3.76 million jobless Filipinos from 3.73 million in May this year. In sum, 45.08 million were employed in June out of 48.84 million Filipinos in the labor force.
The correlation of the unemployment rate to lockdowns is easy to comprehend. The economy, per the estimate of the National Economic and Development Authority, will lose around P210 billion in terms of business output for the two-week implementation of the strictest ECQ in Metro Manila to curb the increasing number of new COVID-19 cases.
A week of ECQ in Metro Manila, which accounts for about 32 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, will cost the economy P105 billion. It will also increase the number of poor people by up to 177,000 and 444,000 more with the loss of jobs. The small-scale businesses will suffer greatly under the new lockdown scheme, as well as workers because of the no-work, no-pay labor arrangement.
The ECQ serves as a pre-emptive strike against the spread of the more virulent Delta strain of COVID-19. But had local government units done their job in policing their citizens about health protocols and social distancing, the lockdown could have been prevented. LGUs, especially barangay chiefs, have been amiss in contract tracing and isolating cases to stop the spread of the virus.
A faster and more widespread vaccination drive can extricate the Philippines from these series of lockdowns. Unfortunately, vaccine supplies have been short and not enough to inoculate more Filipinos. In the meantime, LGUs should do their job in curbing the spread of COVID-19, instead of conveniently proposing a general lockdown to cover up their incompetence.