One of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown is the disruption in terms of employment. July 2020, National Mobile Phone Survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) revealed some depressing numbers as adult unemployment reached 45.5%, a 28-point increase from their December 2019, survey prior to the onslaught of the coronavirus.
Official government data also paint a grim picture. The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that for July 2020, the unemployment was at 10% which represented around 4.6 million Filipinos out of a job. This number was nearly double the 5.4% rate in the same period last year but lower than the record 17.7% in April. Surely, the gradual reopening of the economy helped in easing the unemployment rate.
While economic managers remain optimistic that the unemployment rate would further ease to 6%-8% next year with the economy expected to make a turn towards recovery, the fact is that many Filipinos have lost their source of income because of the pandemic. But as in many cases, challenges become opportunities. And I know Filipinos are resilient and persistent. No crisis or pandemic will bring down the Filipino spirit.
Unemployment has forced many Filipino workers to reinvent themselves and pursue career changes. Rather than try to regain their old jobs in the same field, many workers have decided to make a change in their careers. This is scary for many reasons.
One reason changing careers is frightful is the uncertainty and unpredictability of it all. What will I do? How can I succeed in a job I have no experience in? What if I fail? These doubts are perfectly natural of course. We all long for stability and the status quo. But in most cases, changes are good especially if the circumstances around you are changing. And I think this pandemic is a clear example of a tectonic shift that has unsettled us all.
I remember when I decided to shift my career from being an employee of an accounting firm to become an entrepreneur—I left my accounting post in SGV & Co. to deliver seafood to Makati offices. It was not a particularly difficult change to make since I had been an entrepreneur at a very young age. But the doubts were there. In my experience, the best way to erase these doubts is to go all in. Your success will be diminished if you dive into a new career halfheartedly.
Another reason a career shift is scary is it entails retooling and a change in perspective. This is especially true if one has been an employee for a long time. Acquiring new skills is difficult but also exciting. And you should embrace that feeling of learning a new skill or acquiring new ideas and concepts. Sometimes life throws us a wrinkle and we just need to make the most of it.
I am very impressed by how many Filipinos have negotiated career changes during the pandemic. I read about pilots and flight attendants shifting to selling food and other products, singers and other entertainers cooking food rather than composing songs, and, teachers frying and selling chickens rather than writing on blackboards.
But in particular, I am very happy about former employees turning to entrepreneurship to carve out a living amidst this time of uncertainty. It is a blessing in disguise, I believe, that will allow us to create a new corps of Filipino entrepreneurs. I also believe that these micro and small businesses will be one of the main drivers of our economic recovery.
Unemployment is painful, but it is not a death sentence. In fact, in many ways, it is an opportunity for renewal. It will allow you to refocus your passion and energy. Sometimes continuity masks our talents and hides other routes to a better life. This is your opportunity to take the road less traveled.