More high-quality jobs, skilled workers: Goals of bid to institutionalize Covid strategy

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SENATE Majority Leader Joel Villanueva’s efforts to “ensure employability and competitiveness of the workforce” by institutionalizing an employment program initially crafted to recover jobs lost in the pandemic has drawn wide support from relevant agencies.

Presiding over the Economic Affairs Subcommittee’s hybrid hearing, the panel frontloaded Senate Bill No. 129 to be known as the “Trabaho Para sa Lahat ng Pilipino Act” once enacted into law.

As envisioned, the Villanueva bill aims to “institutionalize the National Employment Recovery Strategy (NERS) of the country to address the social and economic issues brought about by the pandemic, as well as the challenges and opportunities brought about by new technologies.”

Villanueva voiced hope that the establishment of a framework for the national employment action plan could create an enabling environment that supports the growth of micro, small and medium enterprises, develop general interventions, as well as targeted measures that will ensure the employability and competitiveness of the country’s workforce.

At the hearing, representatives of key agencies—Departments of Finance, of Trade and Industry, of Migrant Workers, the National Economic and Development authority (NEDA) and the TESDA, among others—expressed full support for the initiative to institutionalize the NERS as part of the country’s long-term development plan.

The DOF said that while it backs Villanueva’s measure, it is seeking policymakers and lawmakers to review the incentives given to MSMEs, and update these accordingly, especially the perks for upskilling workers.

For its part, the NEDA cited three strategies under the PDP that support the efforts to institutionalize NERS: increase employability, expand access to employment opportunities, and achieve shared labor market governance.

The transformation from ad hoc (during the pandemic) to long-term program entails shifting from sheer “employment recovery to the continuous generation of quality jobs,” stressed Villanueva.

Sen. Nancy Binay called on NEDA to craft a long-term Philippine Development Plan that would nurture the growing labor force in the country. The PDP, presented by NEDA at the beginning of each administration, is a medium-term plan for deep economic and social transformation to reinvigorate job creation and accelerate poverty reduction.

During the hybrid hearing on Senate Bill No. 129, Binay pointed out that improving the country’s labor force and making them more competitive would take more than years of planning. “Six years is too short. I think that’s where the problem comes from because the timeline that we’ve set for planning is too short,” Binay said in Filipino.

For his part, Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito urged concerned agencies to consider ongoing and future government infrastructure projects in crafting long-term plans for jobs recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ejercito noted the impact of infrastructure development on job creation and economic growth. He cited, for instance, the ongoing railway projects, which, he said, could spread out development throughout the country.  “Once we finish all of these, we will create growth development areas, growth nodes in every province,” Ejercito said.

Meanwhile, Ejercito called on agencies to look at and prioritize industries that emerged post-pandemic in crafting the NERS.