Unemployment claims flood SSS as more Filipinos lose jobs

from August 26, 2021 01:00 am to August 26, 2021 01:00 am

MANILA, Philippines — The state-run pension fund Social Security System (SSS) on Wednesday reported a surge in unemployment claims and members applying for such benefit during the first half of 2021 as tens of thousands of workers lost their jobs due to the lingering pandemic.

The figures are expected to rise as the lockdowns imposed to contain the COVID-19 crisis prevented companies from operating at normal capacities.

During the Aug. 6-20 enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) alone, the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) said more than 3,000 business establishments reported that they either retrenched or reduced the working hours of nearly 90,000 of their employees.


“We can only surmise that these are micro and small enterprises which are greatly affected by the ECQ,” Assistant Labor Secretary Dominique Tutay said during an online forum hosted by the labor department on Wednesday.



Tutay added that the figure did not include workers in the informal sector and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were repatriated during the past two weeks.


Since the start of the year but before the two-week ECQ, around 255,000 formal sector workers had been laid off while 1.17 million others had their pay reduced due to temporary business closures or flexible work arrangements, Tutay said.

Making matters worse is that the labor department’s promised P5,000 cash aid for each affected worker during the latest round of ECQ fell through after the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) denied the Dole’s request for an additional P2 billion for cash assistance to 398,000 displaced workers across the country.


The DBM said the Dole has yet to use up its P13-billion allocation for emergency employment, a claim denied by the labor department.


Tutay said the Dole could not tap into the remaining P4 billion in funds for its cash-for-work program Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (Tupad) since this has been reserved for the rest of the year.


Steep, 407\% jump

The SSS said the unemployment benefits it released from January to June this year jumped by 407 percent to P732.15 million from last year.


SSS members who applied for the benefit also climbed by 355 percent to 54,282 as of end-June from 11,917 a year ago.

Through Republic Act No. 11199 or the Social Security Act of 2018, the SSS provides unemployment benefits worth half of a member’s average monthly salary credit during a two-month period.


“The steep jump in benefit releases is associated with the increase in members’ awareness on the availability of the benefit for those who were involuntarily separated from work mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” SSS president and chief executive Aurora Ignacio said.


“We’re glad that this program was able to assist our workers in the private sector, especially during these times when the majority were left jobless due to the pandemic. Aside from that, the safety and convenience of our online services and checkless disbursements helped our qualified members to get their benefits on time which really served their purpose,” she added.


The SSS urged its currently jobless members to check the steps and submit their unemployment benefit claim applications online.


Rising unemployment

Latest government data showed that the number of unemployed rose to 3.76 million in June as more Filipinos looked for jobs when quarantine restrictions gradually eased. While the unemployment rate of 7.7 percent last June was similar to that in May, the actual number of those without a job at the end of the first half was about 30,000 more than the previous month’s 3.73 million.


The underemployment rate was estimated at 17.2 percent or 7.45 million employed Filipinos looking for additional job or work hours.


The government’s economic managers have already conceded to a possible worsening in the August unemployment rate compared to previous months after Metro Manila and nearby provinces like Bataan and Laguna reverted to an ECQ, the strictest quarantine level, this August.


In a report on Wednesday, Singapore-based bank DBS said that across Asean-6, which besides the Philippines also included Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, “unemployment rates remain above prepandemic levels.”


But DBS economist Chua Han Teng noted that the rate was “the most elevated in the Philippines.”

“A prolonged pandemic raises the risk of long-term labor-market scarring,” DBS warned.


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