More than half million Filipino migrant workers were displaced by the pandemic abroad while an estimated 1.1 million more were unable to resume or start working overseas since January.
Labour Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said that as of Oct. 20, there were 505,837 Filipinos overseas who were affected by the pandemic, including the 864 who died out of the 9,402 who contracted COVID-19.
The remaining 496,435 workers became displaced, when they permanently lost their jobs or are momentarily not able to return to work, according to data from the Philippine’s Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE).
The DOLE data said, 260,575 of the distressed Filipinos abroad had already been repatriated while 131,047 were still waiting to be brought home.
Mr. Bello said he was surprised to find that 104,813 migrant workers opted to stay to stay put rather than face economic uncertainty in the Philippines.
“There are thousands who lost their jobs or cannot go to their jobs because of the lockdown,” Mr. Bello said in an online media forum on Wednesday.
Based on last year’s deployment data, the DOLE estimated that over 1 million returning and newly hired OFWs were unable to be deployed.
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) reported that 682,000 Filipino migrant workers left the country from January to September this year, of which 440,000 are land-based while 241,000 are sea-based workers.
The overseas deployment is 60% less than 1.72 million Filipinos deployed during the same period last year but the DOLE admitted that the one-time government assistance of US$200 for displaced Filipinos overseas has so far been able to reach only 302,198 of the displaced workers.
The DOLE has already spent PHP3.082 billion (US$61.7 million) for the Abot Kamayang Pagtulong (Akap) for Filipino migrant workers, but Bello said the agency has allocated PHP3 billion (US$61 million) more for the program out of its PHP13 billion (US$267.7 million) additional emergency budget.
Aside from distressed OFWs, Mr. Bello has also aired concern for micro, small and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs) that are worried they could not pay their workers the mandatory 13th month salary.
Mr. Bello estimated that PHP5 billion (US$103 million) to PHP13.7 billion (US$282 million) would be needed to subsidize distressed MSME employers so they could pay their 13th month pay. (Source: INQUIRER.net)