EMPLOYMENT and real wages in agriculture recovered during the pandemic due to surging demand for produce, the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) said.

“The experience of agriculture during the COVID-19 crisis had evidently been a unique one in the Philippines, with the sector’s employment share increasing, temporarily interrupting a declining trend that had persisted over the last 15 years,” it said in a study.

“Agriculture had been the only sector where both employment and wages were able to simultaneously rise eventually, indicating robust demand,” it added.

The think tank said the industry was not impacted by employment or wage declines due to the nature of work in agriculture.

“Such resilience likely owes to agriculture’s dual nature, by being both a low-contact and essential sector; to possible substitution effects from non-food to food consumption of households; and to hefty support it received from both government and private business,” PIDS said.

It added that agriculture already practices social distancing by default, minimizing the impact of government restrictions on human contact.

“Economic activities that are deemed essential by the government — which include but are not limited to the activities that are related to health services and the production and transport of food and medicines — (observed) looser community quarantine measures, if any,” it added.

The study found that employment in agriculture had recovered to pre-pandemic levels. 

People were more likely to be employed in the industry in April 2021 than in April 2020. The probability of employment in the sector among men was also higher in April 2020 compared to April 2019.

“This time, the increase in the probability of employment in agriculture among women was also statistically significant like it was among men. Given that lower likelihood of employment in the non-agriculture sectors during the onset of the pandemic coincided with higher likelihood of employment in the agriculture sector, it is possible that some of the employment losses in the non-agriculture sector had been partially cushioned by the agriculture sector,” PIDS added. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson