Measures to boost labor resilience amid pandemic pushed

The country needs to implement measures to strengthen the recovery of workers from the coronavirus crisis, including expanding regional development, according to a professional economist.

“The crisis that we are facing is different from all the other crises that we have faced. Unlike before, it’s capital that is being taken away from the economy, now it’s the workers. So it is not just a supply side problem, it’s also a demand side,” Leonardo Lanzona, professor of Economics at the Ateneo de Manila University, said in a webinar.

Lanzona, also consultant at University of the Philippines Public Administration Research and Extension Services Foundation, Inc.-Regulatory Support Program for National Development (UPPAF-RESPOND), said the recovery hinges on the combination of
economic activity and worker security, particularly health.

“And to do this, the resiliency of labor should be at the center of economic recovery,” he added.

To make the workers more resilient and to strengthen their recovery, Lanzona said it is imperative for the country to expand regional development, especially as people are moving towards the agricultural sector which has recently been affected by typhoons and weather disturbances.

He cited estimates of the Asian Development Bank showing that job losses due to coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) were experienced in all sectors, except for agriculture.

Lanzona said the same estimates indicate that along with full-time job losses, there is an increase in part-time work as individuals were looking for means to preserve their livelihoods.

Part-time work with no expectation of permanence is one kind of alternative work arrangement (AWA). Others engaged in alternative work are those who are self-employed, involved with different employers, and on a non-regular basis for payment.

“Crucial to encouraging labor market participation is the improvement of economic activity and the choice of work arrangement. Hence, trade and foreign direct investments are necessary in creating the necessary conditions for creating jobs,” he added.

Lanzona said expanding trade in the industrial areas raises the chances of workers to participate in AWAs, especially for the males and reduces the probability of women to report a wage.

“(This suggests) that greater trade outside of the industrial regions enhances entry of workers in conventional work especially as the more competitive firms in the industrial regions are capital intensive,” he said.

Lanzona pushed other measures to enhance the condition of the workers, including strengthening the social protection system to guarantee worker earnings, improving access to health insurance to guarantee worker safety, and making technology more available especially the internet.

“Laws should be strengthened to secure workers their rights. The evidence of market power and discrimination necessitates a reexamination of the requirements for decent work standards especially for AWAs,” he added.

Lanzona also underscored the need to look at benefits and worker insurance; training and development; and promotion and wages, including allowances,

“What is important though is that the workers and employers should be given enough space to negotiate contracts that are acceptable to the workers and to make the incentives for both parties to be compatible. So the role of the state should be really confined to the definition and protection of worker rights,” he said.

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