If they can’t feed hungry mouths, how can they pay for nasal swabs ?
This, Sen. Sonny Angara said, is the predicament facing jobseekers who are having a hard time complying with the requirement of potential employers that they include a negative COVID test result in the credentials they submit.
“For jobless breadwinners, it is choosing between two sacks of rice or a RT-PCR swab,” Angara said, referring to the P3,500 - P5,000 cost of the test that detects the presence of the coronavirus in the body.
“It is a big start-up cost for people who are at the end of their ropes,” Angara said.
He said the price of a RT-PCR test, to include the cost of going to the testing site, is equivalent to half-month pay of a minimum wage earner.
Although job applications are now accepted online, the hiring process often involves face-to-face interviews or actual demonstration of trade skills, “which requires a negative RT-PCR test as gate pass,” Angara said.
“Kung luluwas ka sa isang lungsod, minsan kailangan yang negative result as gate pass. Kahit na sabihin na online ang application, kadalasan may face-to-face interview na kasunod, o kaya actual demonstration ng skills,” he said.
Angara said he has seen data pointing to a “Covid test wall,” which discourages the unemployed to look for jobs.
Even though government does not require COVID-19 testing as a job application requirement, jobseekers have complained that some employers have made it a must for pre-employment.
This has prompted Angara to file a bill creating a free COVID-19 testing for all jobseekers, calling it “a needed employment stimulus.”
Under his bill, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) will cover the cost of the testing.
The DOH, in full cooperation with the Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Trade and Industry will ensure COVID testing is free and accessible for all jobseekers. This benefit will run during the course of the pandemic national emergency .
He explained that the following individuals can avail themselves of the free test :
• A young person who is finding employment for the first time;
• An unemployed person who is actively seeking employment; and
• A displaced worker whose employment was permanently terminated for authorized reasons or other causes arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Existing COVID-19 testing centers would reserve slots for jobseekers who qualify for free tests under the bill, the cost of which will be refunded by PhilHealth, based on a prescribed price.
He said this will benefit fresh out of college jobseekers, “which is the demographic struggling to find jobs in a tight labor market.”
Angara said to ease unemployment “workers need help to access the labor market with ease, and on the part of employers, potential recruits who can readily submit credentials.”
So that there will be no more question about the policy of the government, Angara’s bill states that the COVID-19 test shall not be considered as an additional mandatory requirement for employment.
Angara is a co-author of the First Time Job Seekers Assistance Act, which exempts new jobseekers from paying fees on a slew of government-issued documents .
Under Republic Act 11261, NBI clearance, barangay clearance, medical certificate from public hospitals, birth and marriage certificates, tax identification number, community tax certificate, multi-purpose ID card, are among the documents that can be issued for free.