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ILO-Japan initiative targets safe return to work for small enterprises

International Labour Organization - ILO

Small enterprises and alternative livelihoods will benefit from a new ILO project with the Government of Japan through safer, more digitalized and productive workplaces, which will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 at work and mitigate the impact on employment and the economy in the Philippines.

MANILA – As enterprises and workers continue to deal with the consequences of prolonged community quarantine, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Government of Japan today launched a new project to support micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new project, “Bringing back jobs safely under the COVID-19 crisis in the Philippines: Rebooting small and informal businesses safely and digitally,” aims to make MSME workplaces safer and more productive so that businesses can re-open and operate safely without returning to stricter lockdown.

“Enterprises and workers in hard-hit sectors are struggling. Some are barely surviving while others have stopped operations. Urgent measures are critical to support them in dealing with the impact of COVID-19, and to build back better and safer. We need to also help people access safe and decent jobs in their own town,” said Director Khalid Hassan of the ILO Country Office for the Philippines.

The one-year project with US$2.2 million funding from the Government of Japan, will help improve the safety and health of workers in MSMEs. It will cover provinces and non-metropolitan regions in the country where pandemic risks remain high and support limited. It will contribute to preventing and mitigating the impact of COVID-19, and engage national MSMEs as well as the informal sector.

“Micro, small and medium enterprises are crucial to economic recovery. Occupational safety and health should be top priority to sustain jobs and businesses in the new normal environment. This includes ensuring a safe return to work, digitalized operations, and safer and more productive workplaces,” said Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Kazuhiko Koshikawa.

As the backbone of the economy, the country’s 1.4 million registered MSMEs represent over 99 per cent of business establishments. These enterprises employ about seven out of every ten workers and contribute to 40 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). As such, MSMEs and their workers have suffered a lot from the prolonged impact of the pandemic. Additionally, many people had to turn to informal businesses and employment to cope with the prolonged impact of the pandemic.

The project will support efforts of the government, workers and employers under current programmes of COVID-19 response and delivering as one, specifically, the National Employment Recovery Strategy (NERS) and the Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP) of the Philippines. It will supplement key policies and programmes through safer and more digitalized operations of MSMEs in provinces. As part of the Safety + Health for All Flagship programme of the ILO, the project is aligned with the ILO’s four policy areas for COVID-19 response. The strategic framework of the NERS is also anchored on these principles and policy areas.

The project will be implemented in collaboration with such partners as the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), and employers and workers organizations in the Philippines.