by Louise Maureen Simeon – The Philippine Star, 17 Dec 2021
MANILA, Philippines — Women and youth in the country’s labor market are bearing the brunt of job losses due to the pandemic, with the government urged to ramp up social protection to address worsening inequality and ensure economic recovery.
In its latest report, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said young workers and women have been the most vulnerable in the labor markets of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam since the pandemic.
In the Philippines, youth aged 15 to 24 accounted for 22 to 28 percent of total job cuts even as they only represented 15 percent of total employment in the country prior to COVID-19.
For Filipino women in the labor force, they represent 44 percent of job losses.
ADB explained that the significant reduction in youth and women employment was due to their overrepresentation in sectors that were heavily hit by the pandemic.
These include food and accommodation services, wholesale and retail trade, and other services. In particular, the wholesale and retail trade sector accounted for nearly a quarter of job losses in the Philippines.
“Young workers were more likely to lose jobs mainly because they dominated hard-hit sectors such as hotels and restaurants, as well as wholesale and retail trade,” ADB said.
“Women, in all the countries examined by the report and across all age groups, were more likely to leave the labor force, mainly to take care of their family during the pandemic,” it said.
ADB noted that those women rejoining the workforce early this year were mostly self-employed or in the informal sector, which may hurt their career development in the long run.
Temporary workers and casual laborers also represented 70 percent of job losses in the Philippines. ADB said these workers were particularly vulnerable to the crisis because they have limited job security and social protection.
“Among the sample countries, the Philippines was the most affected in 2020 in terms of health outcomes (COVID-19 cases) and also in economic and labor market impacts,” ADB said.
During the peak of the pandemic, one out of five workers, or equivalent to 12.5 percent of the working population, transitioned out of employment, of which 6.5 percent became unemployed and another six percent exited the labor force.
Amid severe job losses across many sectors, ADB said the pandemic has worsened inequalities between skilled and unskilled workers, exposing social protection gaps associated with high and persistent informality across the region.
Further, ADB said the pandemic has provided an opportunity for countries to address gaps and expand social protection coverage to new beneficiaries and excluded groups.
Even prior to the pandemic, social protection in the Philippines and neighboring economies were already weak while support measures do not really cover a large share of workers.
“Social insurance measures may have benefited a small segment of formal workers, but their coverage remained lacking. The pandemic highlighted the vulnerability of informal workers to external shocks and their limited access to social protection, emphasizing the need for intensified formalization efforts,” ADB said.
Data showed that the Philippines is investing a measly 2.6 percent of its gross domestic product to social protection, lower than the Asia Pacific average of 4.9 percent and way below the global average of 11 percent. Less than 37 percent have access to at least one protection scheme.