‘Jablessness’ breeds joblessness: Senators urge ‘mass inoculation’ to get people back to work
MANILA, Philippines — Some senators pressed the government for a quicker rollout of its vaccination program to stimulate the economy and bring back employment.
“The latest jobs report states the obvious: Joblessness is a result of ‘jablessness.’ The contagion of unemployment is a brutal side effect of this virus. Mass inoculation is the cure to mass unemployment,” Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said in a statement Wednesday.
“Opening up the economy remains rhetoric if not accompanied by the opening up of more vaccination sites. Our recovery is through the tip of the needle,” he added.
Recto said the government’s vaccination efforts should be ramped up before the start of the rainy season “when typhoons and floods and the power and transportation disruption they cause can wreak havoc on vaccine rollouts.”
Senator Joel Villanueva also made an urgent case for the immediate inoculation rollout for workers.
“The only way to revive the economy and restore jobs and opportunities, especially for our workers and our MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises), is hinged on the immediate rollout of the vaccination program,” said Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee.
“It cannot be overemphasized that our essential workers—our economic frontliners—be next in the vaccination line after medical frontliners. Before our workers can roll up their sleeves to work, they must roll them up to get their shots,” he added.
Recto and Villanueva issued their calls following the Philippine Statistics Authority report that some 4.5 million Filipinos were jobless last year for an average unemployment rate of 10.3 percent, the highest in 15 years.
Both senators added that one-time cash assistance would no longer be ideal.
“From a fiscal point of view, vaccines which give permanent protection are cheaper than a one-time ayuda. No matter how you compute it, what is to be injected in their arms are cheaper than any cash assistance that the government may want to put in their pockets,” Villanueva said.
“The help our workers need from our government is not money that can tide them over a week, but gainful employment and livelihood that can only come after they have been vaccinated,” he added.
Finally, Recto pointed out that “any ayuda is but a temporary pain killer that will lessen the symptoms a bit but will not cure the cause.”
Senator Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, called for a “safety first” approach in reopening the economy.
“Ang tanging solusyon nila ay ang madaliang buksan ang ekonomiya by relaxing mobility restrictions. Pero paano ngayong tumataas pa ang Covid-19 cases at pasimula pa lang rollout ng bakuna?” she said in a separate statement.
(The proposed solution was to open up the economy by relaxing mobility restrictions. But how about the rising Covid-19 cases when the vaccination rollout has just started?)
“Instead of relying on people to confidently rush in to consume and invest when the economy is reopened, we need to ensure ‘safety first’ and support ‘low-contact high potential sectors’ to get us out of this pit,” she added.
She called for the improvement of connectivity in the country so that more people can work and transact from home.
“So foreign economic demand for business process outsourcing type jobs can be tapped now that the domestic economy isn’t about to take off,” the senator said.
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