DECEMBER 7, 2021


We are on the right track to a strong and early recovery. Once more, our strategy has been proven correct. The numbers tell us this.

The October 2021 labor force survey results affirmed the soundness of the government’s push to safely reopen the economy, restore employment, and manage the spread of COVID-19. As we relaxed restrictions to alert level 2, more people were able to work while COVID-19 positivity, case fatality, and bed occupancy rates continued to improve.

Sustaining these gains will allow us to recover to the pre-pandemic level in early 2022, a year ahead of the government’s initial estimates.

Labor force survey results

As reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority today, the country’s unemployment rate decreased from 8.9 percent in September 2021 to 7.4 percent in October 2021.

The underemployment rate, however, increased from 14.2 percent to 16.1 percent in the same period as more people worked under part-time arrangements. The labor force participation rate also slightly decreased from 63.3 percent to 62.6 percent.

Nevertheless, more people are employed today than in the months before the pandemic struck. Employment creation remained positive as 234,000 more Filipinos were able to find work in the past month. This brings total employment to 1.3 million above pre-pandemic levels.

Better employment outcomes in October were driven by the government’s policies that further reopened the economy safely, such as shifting to the alert level system and granular lockdowns from large-area and blanket quarantines and allowing more mobility for vaccinated individuals.

Credit should also be given to the close collaboration between the private sector and government not only in accelerating the inoculation drive for our people but also in enforcing the minimum health protocols to contain infections.

From pandemic to endemic: 10-point policy agenda for a COVID-19 resilient society

To further accelerate our recovery, the economic development cluster has approved a 10-point agenda to shift the country from a pandemic to endemic paradigm.

The 10-point policy agenda covers the following areas: 1) metrics; 2) vaccination; 3) healthcare capacity; 4) economy and mobility; 5) schooling; 6) domestic travel; 7) international travel; 8) digital transformation; 9) pandemic flexibility bill; and 10) medium-term preparation for pandemic resilience.

Studies show that COVID-19 fatality ratios could fall from the current 2 percent to around 0.35 to 0.84 percent with full vaccination. As we continue to accelerate our vaccination drive, we should shift our focus to total severe or critical cases, the case fatality ratio, and total vaccinations instead of total infections.

The government and the private sector have shown their ability to administer vaccines on a wide scale. As of December 5, a total of 91.8 million doses have been rolled out. From November 29 to December 3, the government rolled out around 9.9 million doses on the extended national vaccination days.

The accelerated vaccination drive will go hand in hand with the government’s efforts in strengthening the country’s healthcare capacity to avert critical cases and deaths and sustain the safe reopening of the economy amid possible spikes from new variants.

Even with the threat posed by new variants, we are confident that our healthcare system and vaccine stockpile will suffice to contain another surge in infections.

Backed by a stronger healthcare system, we will solidify our recovery by reopening the economy to alert level 1 in January 2022. At the same time, to avert long-term productivity losses and restore more employment, we will resume face-to-face schooling in January 2022, increase public transport capacity for all transport types to 100 percent, and relax restrictions for domestic and international travel.

We will not, however, simply return to business as usual. We will restore our path towards a more sustainable growth against future crises by enacting pending economic liberalization and digital transformation bills to improve telecommunications services and attract more foreign direct investments.

We reiterate our call for the urgent passage of amendments to the Public Service Act (PSA), which is pending in the Senate. Along with the other economic liberalization bills, this structural reform will help insulate the country from global supply issues, lower prices, and improve services for all Filipinos.

This may not be the last pandemic we will need to manage in our lifetime. To ensure our resilience against future outbreaks, we propose to enact a pandemic flexibility bill. This will complement the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act. Moreover, a “pandemic playbook” will cull all the lessons we have learned over nearly two years of coping with COVID-19.

The country’s economic performance has exceeded expectations in 2021. The road ahead remains challenging, but we assure the Filipino people that we have all the elements in place to recover quickly and strongly from the pandemic and grow rapidly in the years to come.

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