MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is seen booking the highest unemployment rate in Southeast Asia, with about eight million Filipinos expected to lose their jobs as the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 pandemic continues to overwhelm the economy, according to Maybank ATR Kim Eng.

In its ASEAN economics report titled “Labour market: Retrenchments and Recovery,” Maybank said the country’s unemployment rate is expected to hit a record 18.5 percent this year, the highest in Southeast Asia.

This is higher than Thailand’s 15.9 percent, Malaysia’s 6.5 percent, Indonesia’s 5.9 percent, Singapore’s four percent, and Vietnam’s 3.6 percent.

In all, the six ASEAN countries would have an unemployment rate of 8.8 percent due to the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and business shutdowns have led to massive employment losses, unprecedented in both speed and magnitude. We estimate that about 25 million jobs may be lost across ASEAN-6, almost nine percent of total employment because of the pandemic and lockdowns,” Maybank said.

The Malaysian financial giant said the pandemic is a regressive shock, disproportionately hurting lower-wage workers and labor-intensive sectors.

“Risks of social unrest are high if jobless numbers remain high and the recovery is weak,” it said.

It added sectors with largest job losses are in manufacturing due to lockdowns, tourism particularly hotels and airlines, as well as consumer-facing sectors including retail and food and beverage.

We think the jobs recovery could take two to four years, depending on the degree of fiscal support, labor market flexibility, and severity and duration of lockdowns,” it said.

Maybank pointed out the jobs recovery would likely be slower compared to the global financial crisis, during which unemployment rates took only around four to six quarters to return to pre-crisis levels.

Maybank said a sizeable proportion of job losses, possibly as much as a third, are from companies that have entirely ceased doing business.

“Job search and matching will be slower for workers shifting to growing from shrinking sectors (airlines, hospitality, recreation, retail),” it noted.

According to Maybank, stricter border controls would hurt countries more reliant on remittances, particularly Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar as well as tourism including Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

“The jobs recovery will likely be fastest in Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam; and slower in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines,” Maybank said.

Latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed the Philippines booked a record unemployment rate of 17.7 percent in April as at least 7.3 million Filipinos had no jobs aggravated by the longest and strictest COVID-19 lockdowns in the world.