15 May 2017
On May 1, 2017, 100,000 Filipino labor rights activists marched in the streets of major cities in the country to demand higher wages, more jobs and an end to contractualization.
The minimum daily wage in the Philippines is set at PhP491 in Metro Manila, while workers in other regions receive daily wages as low as PhP243. However, a family of six needs at least PhP1088 daily in order to live decently, according to independent thinktank Ibon Foundation. With inflation and the recent increase in rice prices, PhP491 is definitely not enough to make ends meet for the average Filipino. Contractual employees receive far less pay than regular workers, while the income of those with informal jobs fluctuate daily.
According to the government’s own statistics, the rate of unemployment increased in the Philippines from 5.4% in 2016 to 6.6% in January 2017. This means that there are almost seven million Filipinos who have no work. This alarming increase is expected to continue, as the government implements policies that are ineffective and non-beneficial to the local economy. Local job creation is put in the backburner, while Filipinos are encouraged to work abroad, many of whom become subjected to violations of migrant workers rights.
Despite promises of change, the government dilly-dallies in creating local jobs that will benefit the labor force and the country in the long-run. Socio-economic reforms in favor of local industrialization and agrarian reform, which has the potential to create more jobs in the country, are snubbed. The call of workers just wage increase, ranging from PhP168 to PhP750, fall on deaf ears of government officials. Contractualization, which President Duterte promised he would end should he be elected as the country’s chief executive, is still in force threatens the job security of millions of Filipinos.
All human beings have the inherent right to work, to just and favorable conditions of employment and to protection against unemployment. However, current policies regarding workers and wages have proven to be anti-labor, violating the basic human right to work. In addition, the government has so far failed to provide basic social services such as free education and health and an efficient transportation system that can ease the heavy loads workers have had to bear.
Employment for Filipinos is necessary in order for the country to move forward and develop. It remains to be seen whether this administration is up to the challenge of answering this need.
Ms. Renmin Crisanta Abraham Vizconde
AscentPH (Assert Socio-Economic Initiatives Network of the Philippines)
(Photo by Mark Ambay III)