39,400 Pinoys lose jobs in crisis but government confident

Published by rudy Date posted on February 12, 2009

The global financial crisis has cost 5,400 Filipinos abroad and 34,000 in the country their jobs, Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said Wednesday.

But on a positive note, he added that the crisis has not affected the demand for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

“There is no slowdown in our placement abroad. We still send 3,000 overseas workers every day,” Roque said during the launching of the expanded information technology-learning center at the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA) Blas Ople Development Center in Intramuros, Manila.

He added that if the Philippine electronic industry were to follow its counterpart in Taiwan, there would be a huge reduction in the layoffs locally.

Recently, Taiwan, which had the highest number of displaced Filipino workers at 946 in December, stopped retrenching foreign workers because this could affect its foreign-labor quota, Roque explained.

He said that the 97 displaced Filipino workers from South Korea in December have since found jobs in the Philippines. Korea’s Labor Minister also helped place those workers.

Roque said the public may be overreacting to the job losses stemming from the global crisis. “During the 1997 global financial crisis, we lost 80,000 jobs permanent. Now, we have only lost 34,000. I just hope that soon there will be a stop to these terminations and flexible working hours.”

He added that some companies have resumed the working hours they followed before the crisis. The Labor secretary had recently released a guideline on flexible working hours, which allow companies ailing from the crisis to reduce operating hours to cut costs.

More nursing jobs

Also on Wednesday, Roque said that an output of 10,000 nursing jobs yearly is being projected for the Nurses Assigned in Rural Areas (NARS)—a training program of the Labor department in partnership with the Philippine Nursing Association, deans of nursing schools and government units.

“We are creating employment,” Roque said of the rural community-based program, which would provide P8,000 worth of allowance for nurses who enter the program by working in provincial hospitals before leaving the country to work abroad.

The program, which also provides a P2,000 stipend from the local government, would help in the placement of Filipino nurses, especially new nursing graduates who just passed the board exams.

No closures in PEZA

Despite the global economic crunch, no factory in the country’s economic zones have shut down, Lilia de Lima, head of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) said also on Wednesday.

“They are adopting certain work hours just to hold their employees, because it’s expensive to retrain people,” she added. “So this is a temporary measure, so that once the crisis is over they still have the workers.”

Despite the closure of Intel’s factory in Cavite last month, de Lima said the employment rate in the economic zone managed to increase by 2.54 percent in 2008 compared to 2007.

The country’s economic zones turned in a total of P443 billion in export revenues and generated some 177,000 jobs last year.

De Lima said 1,000 of Intel’s 1,800 laid off workers at Gateway were absorbed by its sister company, Numonix.

Numonix, which located here last year, has already sent to the Philippines their machineries from Pudong, China, she added.

While some 12,500 workers at the economic zones were laid off from October last year to February 7 this year, the authority has approved more than 560 companies in 2008. These companies have already started hiring new workers inside economic zones.

“We usually count the layoffs, but we should also focus on new companies coming in and are now starting to hire—and also the companies that are expanding. This is continuous,” she said.

For 2009, de Lima earlier said that the authority and the Board of Investment (BOI) have approved P7.965-billion worth of new investments, representing a 117-percent increase compared to the P3.66-billion figure in the same period last year.

Solution to crisis

Affirming that the country is actually “awash with cash,” Social Security System President Romulo Neri told congressmen also on Wednesday that the Philippines needs to spend more in infrastructure investments to weather the global crisis.

Neri told reporters after the hearing of the House joint committees on economic affairs and banks that the P330-billion economic stimulus package is important since the country’s savings have only been “accumulating in our system.”

“We really must invest the money . . . we cannot just set it aside,” Neri told lawmakers. He added that the country’s savings amount to about 11 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), which is the total cost of all goods and services produced in the country in a year.

Neri also maintained that the country’s abundance of cash is also the reason why it is doing better than other countries that are deeply engaged in speculative trade. Neri attributed the abundance of savings to the continuous flow of remittances from OFWs.
— Bernice Camille V. Bauzon, Angelo S. Samonte And Frank Lloyd Tiongson, Manila Times

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