The travel restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted the country’s hospitality industry, resulting in the displacement of many employees.

Despite less favorable work conditions, the industry’s “displacement survivors” continue to work to support themselves and their families, according to a recent study published by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS).

Authored by PIDS Consultant and University of the Philippines-Cebu Assistant Professor Jonathan de la Cerna, the policy note investigated the experiences of hospitality workers who survived the displacements caused by the pandemic. Thirty-six hospitality layoff survivors from Bohol, Cagayan de Oro City, Cebu, Davao, Mactan Island, and Western Visayas, were interviewed for this study.

According to de la Cerna, these displacement survivors, who choose to keep their jobs despite uncertainties, are “at risk of becoming victims of unfair labor practices”, such as underpayment, nonpayment of wages, work overload, and diminution of benefits.

In his paper, he also found that displacement survivors experience work-related stressors due to the pandemic because of the risk they face when going to work, new competency requirements, and understaffing.

The reduced working days, prohibition of work hours extension, increased number of rest days, and the nonrequirement of holiday work also result in financial difficulties. Given possible business closures, they also face job and employment insecurity. De la Cerna said that these workers recognize the challenges of finding employment elsewhere but remain optimistic about their employability because of their work experiences and skillsets.

“Financial uncertainties drive them to endure these strains, given the limited work choices caused by job and employment instabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he explained.

With the reported experiences of the interviewed survivors, the author noted “it is imperative to develop policies protecting their welfare and rights.”

To make this possible, the government should develop a recovery roadmap for the hospitality industry that includes “fair labor policies, survivors’ welfare-centered programs, open and transparent communication, and recovery preparatory interventions”.

Ongoing government programs should also be strengthened, particularly those involving health protocol training and tourism recovery.

De la Cerna also highlighted the importance of retooling and reskilling industry workers. He said the Department of Tourism should sustain its ongoing training courses for the hospitality industry to train tourism stakeholders on health and safety protocols and new normal operations.

More importantly, de la Cerna emphasized that businesses must “constantly look after their employees’ basic and career needs”. These could be in the form of building management competencies, establishing appropriate protective benefits and reward systems, and adhering to labor standards.

Finally, as the Asia-Pacific region’s tourism industry recovers, he urged researchers to look at best practices from the Philippines’ neighboring countries.  

“Displacement survivors deserve all forms of support that are possible and available. They, too, matter,” de la Cerna concluded. ###

This press release is based on the PIDS policy note “They, too, matter! Policies and best practices to support hospitality workers who survived COVID-19 pandemic-induced job displacements”.

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