On 12 March 2021, during the 1st National Employment Recovery Strategy (NERS) 2021 – 2022 Task Force Technical Working Group Meeting, Labor Assistant Secretary and Concurrent BLE Director Dominique Rubia-Tutay detailed the DOLE-proposed Wage Subsidy program which will form part of its obligations under the Task Force’s action plan.

Chaired by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and co-chaired by DOLE and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), NERS is a medium-term plan that aims to create employment opportunities, improve employability and productivity of workers, and support existing and emerging businesses while taking into consideration the changes in the labor market brought by the pandemic and the fast adoption of the Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies.

On 5 February 2021, the NERS Joint Memorandum Circular was signed by the 20-strong Task Force. Aside from DTI, DOLE, and TESDA, members include the Departments of Transportation (DOTr), Tourism (DOT), Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Science and Technology (DOST), Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Agriculture (DA), Agrarian Reform (DAR), Interior and Local Government (DILG), Information and Communications Technology (DICT),  Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and National Security Council (NSC), as well as the Office of the Cabinet Secretary (OCS), Departments of Finance (DOF) and Budget and Management (DBM), and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) as members of the Oversight Committee.

President Rodrigo Duterte approved the NERS during the 52nd Cabinet meeting on 22 February 2021, and put in motion the drafting of an executive order institutionalizing the Task Force.

During the 1st Technical Working Group Meeting, the Task Force’s 8-Point Employment Recovery Action Plan was discussed in detail to ensure that high employment impact programs and policies are enrolled in the inter-agency strategy.

Foremost among the action points was the Wage Subsidy being lobbied by the labor department. Asec. Rubia-Tutay briefed the Task Force on the proposed program which is targeted to benefit some 1.6 million workers and 30,000 establishments—particularly micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

“The wage subsidy can ensure that existing workforce are retained and job terminations are avoided,” Asec. Rubia-Tutay explained. “On top of that, it can augment the income loss of affected workers in the formal sector.”

Priority will be given to MSMEs currently implementing flexible work arrangements or temporary closure, followed by other MSMEs, and establishments currently availing of the zero- or low-interest facilities of DTI-SB Corp and CARES program.

DOLE hopes to implement the program with the help of the DBM, DOF, DTI, and NEDA.