More than 4 million people are unemployed in the Philippines at this time, and it’s a huge problem especially because the world is in the midst of an economic struggle due to the pandemic. As governments try to reconstruct their respective economies, job creation needs to be at the heart of all the efforts.
As we are thrust into a series of crippling quarantine periods, industries have tried to stay alive by shifting a significant part of their operations to the digital platform. Those who are not able to join this move are left behind, including many of our workers—those working in the informal sector, migrant workers, workers who belong to manual industries, and those who couldn’t diversify or upskill, for one reason or another. Our people need to weather this storm on top of all the loss, death, illness, and fear.
While technological innovations may be a boon for some sectors like the health care and digital industries, it can’t be denied that these also affect some workers negatively as they render some jobs unnecessary. In this light, there must be greater effort to consciously use technology in the creation of new occupations in all sectors.
Aside from these, the current work setup opens the door to poor working conditions like the blurring of boundaries, pervasive surveillance, loss of workers’ opportunity to organize themselves, which is a basic right, among others. Productivity is increased and businesses are being nursed toward recovery, sometimes at the expense of the workers.
The Philippine government must make sure that affected workers are able to find decent jobs, and that their rights are respected as the world transitions into new ways of working and doing things. It is largely a matter of policy setting to make sure sectors are regulated and good governance in the areas of technology and digital innovations remains on top of the agenda.
Efforts must also include the improvement of Internet connectivity as the move toward a digital economy is, expectedly, disastrous for people who lack access to reliable and affordable Internet connection. This does not only affect workers, but also students and teachers, the people needing health or medical services, and so many others.
To address the problem, we need alternative infrastructure providers, changes in policy, an effective communication campaign, new models of investment or financing vehicles, and the availability of opportunities for workers to learn, upskill or reskill, as well as education campaigns for the public.
Finally, in designing new technological systems and creating public policies, the affected sectors must always be involved. An inclusive process will lead to a better design, greater efficiencies, and bigger benefits for the public. And now is the time to study our options and to act, before the unemployment figure swells to an unmanageable level.