Published by the Visayan Daily Star
Editor-in-Chief & President
Bureau Chief, Dumaguete
MAJA P. DELY
|CARLOS ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA
The Asian Development Bank and International Labor Organization recently released a joint report that highlights the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic’s repercussions on youth employment across the region, casting a grim shadow on policymaker’s efforts to revive their economies, especially in countries like the Philippines which rely on their young workforce for economic prosperity.
Around 1 million young Filipinos are seen to lose their jobs this year, a direct result of the pandemic that prompted companies to lay off workers, cut work hours and freeze hiring of new graduates. The jobless rate among the youth aged 15 and above is likely to hit as high as 19.5 percent by yearend if COVID-19 is contained within 6 months, resulting in 1.02 million job losses.
A slightly lower rate of 15.1 percent, equivalent to 687,000 youth jobs being wiped out, may be recorded if COVID-19 is put under control within 3 months. At any point of containment, youth unemployment is still expected to more than double from last year’s 6.8 percent, a scenario likely to reflect the trends in the Asia Pacific region this year.
“Young people will be hit harder than adults in the immediate crisis and also bear higher longer-term economic and social costs,” ADB and ILO said.
At the onset, COVID-19 and lockdowns enforced to slow down virus transmission disproportionately hit sectors where youth are mostly employed such as wholesale and retail trade, accommodation and food services, and manufacturing. Recruitments for internships and apprenticeships were also halted or interrupted as companies reeled from closures. The problem appears more severe if new graduates are counted as firms been observed to have no appetite to hire young people.
ADB and ILO recommended “large scale and targeted” measures, including wage subsidies and offering government work opportunities. “Prioritizing youth employment and maximizing youth productivity in the COVID-19 recovery process will improve Asia and the Pacific’s future prospects for inclusive and sustainable growth, demographic transition and social stability,” the joint report noted.
In a country where a significant portion of the population can be considered the youth as we approach the demographic sweet spot that should power our progress, our government cannot afford to ignore the youth and the potential productivity they possess. Hopefully the youth is included in the recovery plans that are being cooked up by senior citizens and baby boomers.*