Tough job

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The labor department estimates about 700,000 Filipino migrant workers will likely lose their jobs this year amid massive global layoffs triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

The health crisis that already eliminated the jobs of 500,000 overseas Filipino workers as of end-August threatens an additional 200,000 jobs if the outbreak persists until the end of the year, Labor Assistant Secretary Dominique Tutay said in an online press conference last week.

The labor department’s new forecast is higher than their previous projection of 500,000 displaced OFWs by year-end. The latest projection has the government preparing for at least 30.4 percent of 2.3 million OFWs as of September 2018 to be left jobless by shuttered businesses and cities locked down by the pandemic.

The displacement of migrant workers also means a proportionate drop for remittances, one of the country’s economic lifelines. The central bank is projecting cash remittance inflows to drop 5% year-on-year by year-end. As of May, remittances were already faring worse than forecast, dropping 6.4 percent annually.

“As the pandemic continues to unfold, the immediate and long-term economic effects across economies are yet to be revealed, but it is expected that tourism, retail and personnel services will also shrink,” Tutay said. She added that countries will naturally reserve the jobs for their own nationals.

Tutay expects repatriated OFWs to take advantage of high demand for health workers at home and abroad and maybe even put up a business to stay afloat, but observers are pessimistic, especially with the continuing rise of COVID-19 cases in the country that could lead to additional restrictions for Filipinos.

After enjoying the benefits of their remittances for decades, our country must now prepare to assist these Filipinos we have dubbed as “bagong bayani” pick up the pieces and carry on in the wake of this crippling pandemic. Redeployment assistance, retraining, and livelihood programs are the obvious measures but in a world where the “new normal” will be anything but normal, all the Filipinos whose jobs and livelihood were affected will be relying on their government’s best and brightest minds to provide the roadmap for the way forward where no one is left behind.*


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October 2020