The destruction of jobs
In this time of COVID-19—but not entirely because of COVID-19—the economic indicators have been consistently, and unprecedentedly, catastrophic. Social Weather Stations has just reported that joblessness among adults, i.e., people age 18 and up, zoomed to 45.5 percent in July, from 17.5 percent last December (SWS July 3-6, 2020 National Mobile Phone Survey—Report No. 16: “Adult joblessness rises to record-high 45.5%,” www.sws.org.ph, 8/16/20).
The SWS Joblessness numbers are consistent with the sum of official Unemployment and Underemployment, as a proportion of the labor force, which was a record 33.3 percent as of April 2020. Official Unemployment means less than one hour a week in gainful work; in short, it is utter idleness.
Joblessness, as surveyed by SWS, means not having a job (trabaho), plus looking for one. In 2020, it suddenly reversed from its downtrend since 2009, when the 4-quarter average peaked at 29.1 percent, in the SWS series that began in 1993. In the decade from 2010 to 2019, average Joblessness was: 22.5 percent, 23.6 percent, 28.8 percent, 25.2 percent, 25.4 percent, 21.9 percent, 22.3 percent, 19.9 percent, 21.9 percent, and 19.9 percent. It was relatively benign in the last three years, but then broke the 40-percent barrier for the first time in history.
Joblessness is spread all over the country: 47 percent in Visayas, 46 percent in Mindanao, 45 percent in Balance Luzon, and 44 percent in the National Capital Region. In every area, half of the jobless say they lost their jobs after the COVID-19 crisis began.
In the pandemic, the gender and age biases of joblessness continue as before. It is 56 percent among women versus 36 percent among men. It is 63 percent among the youth of age 18-24, and declines with age: 49 percent among those 25-34, 42 percent among those 35-44, and 40 percent among those 45 and up.
Why prevent the youth from going to work? Thus, the government’s guidelines for the general community quarantine, forbidding those below age 21 from going out “except for essentials,” only reinforces the longstanding bias against the youth, as though a youngster’s going out for gainful work is not “essential” for the well-being of the family. The poorer the family, the more essential is the contribution to the family budget from its younger members; that’s why poor families have many more school dropouts. The legal minimum working age is 15 years old, mind you.
Where is the research showing that youngsters are inherently more likely to be virus carriers and infect others, or to be infected by the virus, if they constantly wash their hands, properly use anti-virus masks, and observe physical distancing?
Why prevent working, shopping, or relaxing outdoors at night? A simple means of creating more physical distance between people in a workplace or commercial establishment is to allow two, three, or even more, work shifts in a day.
Opening night hours for public parks will allow people, especially those in crowded homes and congested barangays, more room and more time in which to exercise and relax. It will create new jobs in the parks.
Where is the research showing that night workers, night shoppers, or night exercisers are more likely to spread the virus, if they constantly wash their hands, properly use anti-virus masks, and observe physical distancing?
Why so niggardly about allowing jeepneys to operate? The government has shown a very distinct bias against public transportation, ignoring the reality that the people need mobility to and from their residences and their workplaces, marketplaces, schools, churches, government offices, et cetera.
People do not live within walking distance of the various places they need to visit in order to conduct normal life. Car owners are very few. The most basic mode of public transportation for the common Filipino is the jeepney.
Where is the research showing that jeepney passengers and drivers are more likely to spread the virus if they constantly wash their hands, properly use anti-virus masks/shields, and observe physical distancing?
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