AfDB warns of slowing economic growth and job losses due to prolonged school closures

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Prolonged school closures – including one of the longest, currently underway in the Philippines – would not only slow economic growth but also kill jobs in the Asia-Pacific region, even a decade after the spread of COVID-19 and have become a pandemic, the Manila-based multilateral lender at the Asian Development Bank (AfDB) said.

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MANILA, Philippines – Prolonged school closures – including one of the longest, currently underway in the Philippines – would not only slow economic growth, but also kill jobs in the Asia-Pacific region, even a decade after the spread of COVID-19 and have become a pandemic, the Asian Development Bank (AfDB), a Manila-based multilateral lender, said.

No less than the country’s Chief Economist – Secretary for Socio-Economic Planning Karl Kendrick Chua himself in a conversation with reporters last week attested to the lower quality of online courses compared to the face-to-face education, has therefore expressed concerns about her only son, as well as the future of millions of Filipino schoolchildren.

“Severe disruptions in school education during the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted children throughout their formative years, which will affect their employment opportunities and earning potential for many years after. school age,” the AfDB Economic Working Paper titled “Potential Economic Impact of COVID-19 Related School Closures” released on Friday read.

AfDB estimates showed that school closures would not only reduce global gross domestic product (GDP) and employment – ​​these losses are also expected to increase over time.

According to the AfDB, global GDP will be reduced by 0.19% in 2024, 0.64% in 2028 and 1.11% in 2030, due to the prolonged lower quality of distance education compared to courses in person. “In absolute terms, the cost to the global economy in 2030 alone is $943 billion,” the AfDB said.

“Healing effects are greater in economies with large student populations from rural areas, those in the poorest quintile and the second wealth quintile. Learning and income losses are also significant in economies where the share of unskilled labor employment in the overall labor force is high,” the AfDB added.

In the Philippines, the AfDB has calculated that prolonged school closures will lead to 4.5% income losses among an estimated 32.44 million unskilled workers, surpassing an estimated 10.09 million skilled workers in the country by 2030.

The AfDB also estimated that the Philippines’ GDP would be 3.27% lower, equivalent to a shortfall of about $11.38 billion, in 2030, as it was among the countries in the region where the enrollment in rural areas was considerably high.

Skilled and unskilled employment in the Philippines would also be reduced by 2.316% and 2.379% by 2030, according to AfDB estimates.

Chua, who heads the state’s planning agency, the National Economic Development Authority (Neda), last week reiterated the need to resume all face-to-face classes nationwide.

“An important piece that is missing from our recovery is the resumption of face-to-face schooling. More than the lost economic activity due to school closures, we are very concerned about the loss of learning and the impact on our children’s future productivity,” Chua said after announcing that the Philippines’ economic growth in the first quarter was better-than-expected 8.3% year-on-year, despite a push from Omicron which reinstated tighter pandemic restrictions earlier this year.

“Under Alert Level 1, children are allowed to engage in leisure and recreational activities in all indoor and outdoor locations, but children’s most important activity – studying – continues to be restricted” , Chua pointed out.

“We reiterate our call for the urgent resumption of face-to-face schooling as well as a catch-up plan to regain the learning lost over the past two years. This will help secure better opportunities for future generations and ensure that our demographic dividends are not wasted,” Chua said.

Neda’s estimates had shown that a school year in which students could not attend face-to-face classes would inflict 11 trillion pesos in lost productivity over a 40-year span of a student’s working life. nobody.

Estimates by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) last March also showed that only less than 15% of school children in the Philippines can read simple texts, slightly better than in November last year, when the World Bank found that distance learning worsens learning poverty. in the Philippines up to 90%. Learning poverty – the share of 10-year-olds who cannot read or understand a simple story – in the country was already 69.5% in 2019 or before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chua is actually an active dad to his six-year-old son, Keid Ashby. The Inquirer learned earlier that the elder Chua would first join the younger kindergarten classes early in the morning on weekdays before he, as Chief Neda, goes to work for the rest of the day – sometimes until late at night, especially during Cabinet meetings with the President. Duterte.

At last Thursday’s first-quarter GDP press conference, Chua said he had time off in the morning because Keid Ashby is on summer vacation. But Chua said even her son needed remedial or remedial lessons.

“Because of online schooling, it [Keid Ashby] is two and a half hours a week short, compared to face-to-face. So in terms of quantity, there is an impact. Then he is also short in all other aspects – physical education and social skills,” Chua lamented.

“I think you can learn intellectually from a laptop screen, but you’re short on everything else,” Chua said.

Chua guides Keid Ashby so he can focus on schoolwork – since a real teacher isn’t physically there, he acts as his son’s teacher during online lessons. “The on-screen professor can’t call anyone, so I just sit there, do my job, check my emails, give instructions to my staff, all the while making sure they’re concentrating.”

Since Keid Ashby already spends his mornings in front of a computer screen for online lessons, Chua makes it a point to limit his son’s use of gadgets – only after lunch and before dinnertime – but the child is bored to death.

“I don’t like him spending 12 hours a day on the screen. But I’m at work; he needs an alternative [activities]. If he can’t meet his friends and he doesn’t have [school] friends for two years, what can he do? Chua said.

Last Thursday, for example, as Chua was getting ready for the press conference, Keid Ashby said to his father when he woke up at seven in the morning: “Dad, I’m so bored! Bored, bored, bored, bored, bored!

Unfortunately for Keid Ashby, who finds his dad a “very interesting” playmate, Chua can’t always stay home as he has a huge responsibility to steer the pandemic-stricken economy through to the end. reprise.

Citing recent estimates by Neda, Chua had said the economy was losing around 12 billion pesos in productive output – including business activities around schools – per week because most educational institutions remained closed.

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