Philippines Studies $499 Million Wage Subsidy Plan for Companies

The Philippines is considering a 24 billion-peso ($499 million) wage subsidy plan that could help pandemic-hit companies retain as many as one million workers.

Small businesses that have reduced work hours or temporarily closed will be prioritized, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said in a virtual employment summit on Saturday. The plan, which is under review by economic managers, will provide a monthly subsidy of 8,000 pesos for each worker for three months.

“The proposed wage subsidy program is a safety net program which aims to save jobs, promote employee retention, and augment income loss of affected workers,” Lopez said.

The Philippines is struggling with widespread unemployment and income losses. Tighter movement curbs in the capital region and surrounding provinces -- the country’s economic backbone -- in late March to April are expected to fan the jobless rate, which rose to 8.8% in February. More recent jobs data is scheduled for release Thursday.

The Philippines’ recovery will lag that of regional peers, according to the Asian Development Bank. It’s also expected to chart Asia’s highest jobless rate this year, according to a Bloomberg survey.

Lopez also pushed for lawmakers to ease some of the country’s foreign investment restrictions, which the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said is among Asia’s strictest.

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