The increase in underemployment rate from 18.8 percent in 2010 to 19.3 percent in 2011 – which translates to more than 186,000 – shows that it is low-quality jobs which account for the slight increase in employment under Aquino.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – “There is a basic problem when a country’s government is hurting its own workers,” commented a member of the International Solidarity Mission on Mining held last week of April. The mission has reported depressed wages and rampant workers’ rights violations in mining areas particularly in the Cordillera and the Caraga regions where its members conducted simultaneous fact-finding missions.
Mining is one of the key areas for investments being supported by the Aquino administration.
The international fact-finding mission noted that the mining-affected communities are left with degraded, poisoned environment while mining companies took home superprofits. They observed that mining does not generate jobs as its contribution to job generation is hardly felt. In Caraga’s total employment for example, it accounts for only 3-percent of the region’s total employment.
But another problem with mining in the Philippines is that it has “no downstream industry,” said Sammy Malunes of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU). After extracting the country’s rich mineral deposits at the lowest wages possible using methods with “astounding negative footprint to Philippine environment and working class,” the minerals are exported raw to other countries, because the Philippines has no industrialization plan in place to make use of its own minerals.
The same lack of genuine national industrialization, said the youth group Anakbayan, lies at the root of the Aquino government’s failure at curbing the perennial problems of unemployment and low wages which have worsened under Aquino. Some 9.7 million Filipinos are currently unemployed.
Aside from pushing destructive mining as part of his economic program, promising growth and employment in return, the Aquino government is also “destroying any bright future for the youth with its insistence on molding the youth as a ‘cheap, disposable workforce’ for the international market to consume,” said NUSP Secretary-General Isabelle Baguisi.
Thousands of young workers and other youths joined yesterday’s Labor Day protests across the country to demand action from the government on problems of unemployment and low wages. The youth rejected the Aquino government’s boasted reduction in unemployment, because, as Baguisi said, “that is only because they themselves have redefined ‘employment.’
Data for 2011 from the National Statistics Office show a slight reduction in the number of unemployed from 7.3 per cent to 7 per cent, or by 100,000.
In a statement, the KMU said the increase in the underemployed from 18.8 percent in 2010 to 19.3 percent in 2011 – which translates to more than 186,000 – shows that it is low-quality jobs which account for the slight increase in employment under Aquino. The labor group said it underscores Pres. Aquino’s failure in improving the quality of jobs available to Filipinos.
“His government has generated only low-quality jobs, those with short work hours and meager wages,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, chairman of KMU.
“Underemployed” is defined as employed people who signify the desire to work for longer hours in their present work or find an additional job, or a new job with longer working hours.
NUSP leader Baguisi explained that the government’s own data on underemployment indicate how most graduates are being forced to take on jobs even if there is a skills-mismatch. Couple this with the ‘wage hikes’ that are merely alms and, clearly, the youth and students have something to protest about.”
Govt-inflicted jobs crisis, low wages
“The new Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) strategic plan highlights the BPO and services sector as key areas for students to explore,” Baguisi said. Along with K+12 program and the push for TESDA application, she said, it is clearly geared in transforming the youth into ‘people for export’ to serve industries and economies other than our local one.
“Where is the push for nationalized industries where we can enter? Where do we offer services to the country?” Baguisi asked.
“The government is responsible for generating jobs in the country. It should push for national industrialization to accommodate our professionals instead of promoting its labor-export policy which forces our workers to go abroad and leave their families just to land jobs,” said Gemma Canalis, spokeswoman of the League of Filipino Students.
The LFS also slammed the government’s K+12 program, which the group said would only be an additional burden to students and their families while increasing the profits of school owners out to make a business from education.
“One of the excuses the government has in pushing for the K+12 and its additional 2 years is that graduates would then have an easier time applying for jobs abroad, as other countries follow a similar scheme. We condemn this maneuver by the US-Aquino regime which is aimed to peddle our youth to huge foreign companies as soon as they start their formal education,” said Canalis.
For the students, the government support for BPOs is also “alarming” because it reveals the government’s “lack of plans in developing local industries where young Filipinos can offer their abilities and know-how,” said Baguisi. She expressed confidence that fresh graduates want to work for the country, “if only the government would recognize this and help us in developing the country’s economy.”
The Youth group Anakbayan listed the highlights of the situation being faced by young workers:
- The youth are more likely to be unemployed than their older counterparts. In the Dept. of Labor’s latest Labor Force Survey, 48.9 percent of all unemployed Filipinos, or 1.43 million, belonged to the 15-24 year age bracket. The unemployment rate for the said bracket is at 16 percent, more than twice the national average of 7.2 percent, meaning 16 out of every 100 work-capable youths do not have jobs.
- A college education does not guarantee as a third of all unemployed Filipinos, or 910 thousand, are either college graduates or undergraduates. Combined with the number of high school graduates, they comprise a whole 77 percent of all unemployed.
- Rampant contractualization affects young workers, especially in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry where almost all employees are in the below 35 year old age bracket. It is estimated that 58 percent of all workers, or six out of every ten, are contractual and suffer from various abuses associated with contractualization.
- Young workers are also affected by low wages. While the various minimum wages are not enough to meet families’ needs (for example, the rate in Metro Manila is pegged at P426 ($9.90) while the daily cost of living is at P1,008 ($23.44), many capitalists still violate the law. According to the Dept. of Labor, almost 20 percent of companies in the Philippines do not follow the Minimum Wage Law.
Workers, youth press for national industrialization
Aquino’s first full year in office shows that his government is “a failure in job generation,” noted Labog of KMU, “because the Aquino government has relied on foreign investors to generate employment in the country, instead of developing the country’s industry.”
Vencer Crisostomo, national chairman of youth group Anakbayan, urged the Aquino administration to generate sufficient, decent jobs by developing local industries and implementing genuine agrarian reform.
All the youth groups who joined the May Day rallies also called for a significant wage hike “to give workers and their families some much-needed relief from rising prices,” a “crackdown on the practice of contractualization, especially in the BPO sector,” price controls and price rollback of basic commodities and services, such as of petroleum and electricity, and putting an end to all demolitions, which Anakbayan said “almost always targets workers’ communities.