DOLE addresses underemployment and pandemic concerns

DOLE addresses underemployment and pandemic concerns

Labor Assistant Secretary Dominique Rubia-Tutay joined Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Agriculture Secretary William Dar, and Transportation Undersecretary Giovanni Lopez in the 29 January 2022 CNN Philippines special, “Prices and Jobs: Outlook for 2022”, for a discourse on the prevailing concerns of businesses and workers as the country treads the path to recovery.

Asec. Rubia-Tutay answered questions relating to the country’s perennial unemployment and underemployment issues exacerbated by the pandemic. She also responded to petitions from the labor sector to raise the minimum wage, and the call for a strengthened reintegration program for affected OFWs.

“We [are currently] rolling out our Php 5,000 financial assistance under the COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program”, Asec. Rubia-Tutay noted, referring to the Department’s pandemic response program, CAMP, which was first launched in March 2020, and redeployed in light of the recent imposition of Alert Level 3 in Metro Manila.

The DOLE released last week the guidelines for the issuance of the Php 5,000 cash aid to private sector workers whose employment were interrupted by the heightened COVID restrictions. As of 27 January 2022, the Department reports having approved around 12,000 applications it has received.

Tagged a “band-aid solution” by some labor groups clamoring instead for programs that provide secure and decent-paying jobs, Asec. Rubia-Tutay clarified that CAMP is a safety net program. As such, it provides workers a much-needed buffer to fall back on during the Alert Level 3 imposition until they can return to their regular jobs.

When it comes to assistance required by pandemic-struck companies, a loan facility for MSMEs was provided in the fourth quarter of 2021, particularly on the payment of 13th Month Pay for workers. The National Employment Recovery Strategy Task Force also had consultations with various business groups to address other bottlenecks that employers face in supporting business operations during the pandemic.

As for the issue of wage hikes, Asec. Rubia-Tutay reports that the various proposals “did not prosper because both the management, the workers, including the government know very well the situation of our economy and they cannot just increase the salary.”

While this may be the case given the current state of the economy, the DOLE hopes that these discussions could progress once the country is in better, stable conditions; particularly now that the elections are fast approaching.

Ms. Joanna Concepcion of Migrante International raised the concern on the Department’s assistance to returning OFWs, to which Asec. Rubia-Tutay acknowledged that limited ayuda has been provided to the aforementioned sector. Nonetheless, she stressed the national government’s increased efforts to provide repatriation assistance (i.e., transportation, accommodation, and food) to around 800,000 OFWs.

While other existing facilities have been put in place, the DOLE acknowledges the limitations posed by workforce complement being exposed to the virus. Employment opportunities are also extended to returning OFWs, Asec. Rubia-Tutay shared, and she invited OFWs to explore their options as they continue life in the motherland.

As the country continues to recover, the Department of Labor and Employment remains committed to providing opportunities and assistance to affected workers and sustain economic and employment gains in 2022.