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Companies told to prioritize upskilling of workers

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PHILIPPINE STAR/EDD GUMBAN

POST-PANDEMIC business measures must prioritize retaining and upskilling employees, government officials said at the online Philippine Business Conference and Expo on Wednesday.

While businesses must take concrete steps to stay afloat, they must also keep their staff employed, Vice-President Maria Leonor G. Robredo said.

“We can also take a look at our supply chains and see whether some of our needs can be sourced from smaller, local producers… At a time of great need such as now, helping each other should take precedence over growth and profits,” she said.

While some have been shifting to work-from-home measures, Ms. Robredo said the private sector must reorient their operations to meet the long-term demands of the new business environment created by the pandemic.

“Let us all work to ensure that we minimize the health risk of our workers. Social distancing and minimum safety practices must become entrenched in the culture of offices and shops,” she said.

Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said it is important to educate the at-risk workforce to adapt to automation.

He said the government must adopt policies for employee safety nets, as well as strengthen their ability to adapt to digital transformation.

“While a digital transformation is already a challenging process, the current crisis makes it even more complicated against a backdrop of rising unemployment, quarantine restrictions, weaker demand, supply disruptions, among others,” he said.

Mr. Bello said the success of the shift to digital would depend on the private sector, which was forced to fast-track digitalization during the pandemic.

“I believe (the pandemic) added new dimensions, new challenges, and new opportunities to these (digital) processes. One of those is: those undergoing transformation must provide quick, positive results,” he said, noting the private sector must take an active role in developing the digital ecosystem.

Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña said there is a need to create globally competitive small businesses, adding that the government must assist small businesses in adopting e-commerce.

Industries that are critically important include health and wellness, electronics, as well as food processing and agriculture, he said.

Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo pointed out that the country stands to benefit from financial and healthcare sector projects.

She said the COVID-19 vaccines would be the awaited innovation that should be automatically approved by the local Food and Drug Administration (FDA) once their United States counterparts do so.

At the same time, Ms. Macapagal-Arroyo said the pandemic had accelerated financial technology services due to the restrictions in the movement of people.

“Making financial technology more inclusive, rather than widening the digital gap is important because the sector most vulnerable to the pandemic is the micro-sector where the small and marginal members of society eke out a day-to-day living,” she said. — Jenina P. Ibañez

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