Number of layoffs up, Labor says

Published by rudy Date posted on March 5, 2009

The global crisis continued to take its toll on Filipinos, as the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) announced on Wednesday that as of this week, 40,191 workers have been laid off.

Plus, the number of retrenched Filipinos working abroad has reached 5,700, the department added.

The figures were up slightly from the previous report released in February— 40,000 laid off in the Philippines and 5,400 retrenched overseas workers.

At least 40,000 workers were also affected by the flexible working hours, a strategy that involves reducing number of working days and canceling overtime work to avert layoffs, the update added.

Job-creation program

But Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said the government, through an executive order given by President Gloria Arroyo, has generated almost one million local jobs – 700,000 in public sectors and 300,000 from the private sector.

He added that even with recent reports that the business process outsourcing (BPO) industries are laying-off workers, losses from that sector are exceptionally small. Some outsourcing companies are even hiring 100,000 new workers.

“We can assume that outright we have one million jobs available locally, including the 10,000 nurses who can benefit from the NARS [Nurses Assigned in Rural Areas] program,” Roque said. He added that the problems with boosting local employment are that the skills of many Filipinos are not compatible with the available jobs, and there are many workers who resist taking on low-skilled jobs.

The Labor department has partnered with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) to address the need of Filipino workers for skills retraining and reorientation.

“That is the challenge for Tesda,” Roque said, “to tailor-fit the requirements of the jobs with our workers . . . it’s a conversion process.”

Overseas placement

There are also more than 500,000 jobs available globally for the retrenched overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) putting to one to 100 the ratio of OFWs who have lost their jobs and the current vacant employments, the Labor chief said.

“We have ample employment opportunities as long as” Filipino workers are not too picky about the jobs available, he added.

Under the government emergency employment program, the available local jobs generated are mainly public works and office employments like price market monitoring, data encoding and survey statistics monitoring.

According to Roque, the Labor department has a P402-million budget for its workers augmentation program, which so far has given 12,000 local and overseas employments and has granted P38 million worth of working capital for 3,000 workers who decided to create livelihood enterprises upon their displacements.

In a recent International Labor Organization (ILO) report, it was suggested that government should strike a balance between low-skilled jobs and high-skilled jobs be generated.

But Roque disputed this suggestion, saying that such balance “depends on the country’s business climate.”

“What we are doing is to balance job preservation with job generation. That is why we have the flexible working hours to help preserve current employment,” he stated.

But he said the government and the department are doing its best effort to mitigate the effect of the global financial crunch to Filipino workers, both local and abroad.

Labor teams dispatched

Recently, the Labor department sent a three-man team to South Korea to coordinate with the Labor Ministry of South Korea regarding the assistance extended by the Korean government to the OFWs working in the country.

There are over 2,000 Filipino workers in South Korea who were assisted by the Labor ministry in finding jobs there.

“Our net loss in South Korea only reached 97 workers because the government helped the OFWs,” Roque said, sharing that the department has also sent teams to Dubai and Taiwan since these are the places wherein Filipino workers were most affected by retrenchments.

A lot of jobs were lost in Dubai and Taiwan, which is why the government needs to send teams to help our workers there, the Labor chief said. “Besides there are still six emirates in UAE [United Arab Emirates] so we need to find out if we can place our workers in these places.”

The United Arab Emirates is composed of seven states, or emirates: Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain. –Bernice Camille V. Bauzon, Reporter, Manila Times

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