TUCP TO ECONOMIC MANAGERS: ADDRESS FOOD INFLATION AND DETERIORATING JOBS QUALITY IN THE LIGHT OF INFLATION AND PERSISTENT UNEMPLOYMENT AND UNDEREMPLOYMENT DESPITE THE REOPENING OF THE ECONOMY
The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) calls on Government economic managers to tackle head-on the three-fold challenge of high food inflation, creation of new jobs and addressing poor job quality.
“A triple whammy on ordinary Filipinos, particularly the minimum wage earners! Our economic managers should work double time and stop sugar-coating the statistics,” is the reaction of House Deputy Speaker Raymond Democrito C. Mendoza (TUCP Party-list) on the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) August 2022 Labor Force Survey that came on the heels of the September 7.7 percent food inflation.
The PSA report showed that unemployment increased from 5.2% in July to 5.3% this August, and underemployment from 13.8% in July to 14.7% in August.
“Underemployment, which has been consistently stuck at double digits for a long period of time, is an indicator of the prevalence of job sharing schemes as an approach to employment and that in truth and in fact, very few new jobs are being created. This underscores that those labeled as ‘employed’ by the PSA are, in fact, workers in precarious work – contractuals, endo work, low-end gig work, and informal work, among others. While they do have jobs, these jobs do not earn decent wages nor provide for job security and as such deprives them and their families of needed wherewithal for food, rent, and utilities amid the surging inflation,” emphasized Deputy Speaker Mendoza.
“They are the 7.03 million underemployed workers reported and included in the 94.7% of our workforce that the PSA identifies as employed. The 7.03 million should not be window dressed as supposedly modest artificial fluctuations in employment. The prevalence of job sharing, contractual, endo or low-end gig work is not the quality of employment that workers deserved. These are temporary jobs and merely palliative. What the economy should create are new real jobs considering the increasing trend of Labor Force Participation Rate,” explained Deputy Speaker Mendoza.
The PSA report indicated the Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR), defined as the proportion of total labor force to the total household population 15 years and over, continues its increasing trend from 63.6% in August 2021 to 66.1% in August 2022.
“The increase in LFPR underscores the urgency of creating new real jobs, otherwise we are looking at the spectre of new entrants to the labor force joining the queue of millions of job sharers which fundamentally means that the job quality will not bring in nutritious meals for workers’ families. This translates to malnutrition with grave short-term and long-term consequences that will be manifested in the workers eventually getting sick, their work productivity dropping, and its corresponding increased pressure on our national healthcare system. To ignore this harsh reality is to raise generations upon generations of end-of-contract (ENDO) Filipino workers who will not be competitive globally or even competitive within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region,” warned TUCP Vice President Luis Corral.
TUCP, the largest labor center in the country representing workers across different sectors nationwide, reiterates the pressing need for a comprehensive data-driven government strategy to address the plight of millions of unemployed and underemployed workers. TUCP proposes:
a) A sustainable industrial policy and jobs agenda. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to formulate the industry promotion strategy anchored on identifying the priority sectors and regions and their respective comparative advantage in terms of the respective products and industries of each region. Pinpointing and upscaling these identified products and industries will not only contribute to the restoration of lost jobs but will certainly generate new jobs.
b) Provide both financial and technical assistance to micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). Note that 99.5% of business establishments in the country are MSMEs which employ around 63% of the workforce of the Philippines. In recent years, MSMEs contribute as much as 40% of our gross domestic product (GDP). To generate new jobs, instead of merely restoring lost jobs, the Government economic managers should provide more grant facilities, capitalization support, low-interest lending programs, loan-forgiveness programs, and temporary tax deferrals for MSMEs to aid them in bouncing back from the socioeconomic damage brought about by the pandemic and the draconian lockdowns.
These forms of assistance, however, should be premised on the MSMEs not only retaining their current employees but also on their hiring of more workers.
c) The Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) “Tulong Pangkabuhayan sa Ating Displaced at Disadvantaged Workers (TUPAD) Program” must be increased and expanded for green jobs, such as jobs in renewable energy, pollution reduction, natural resources conservation, and environmental compliance, among others, and to usher in the transition to sustainable urban jobs by organizing the informal sector or the unemployed into small-scale enterprise cooperatives.
Recently, the International Labour Organization (ILO) reported that global employment in renewable jobs reached as high as 12.7 million last year, signifying a big increase of 700,000 new jobs in just a single year.
d) It is high time that we pass the “Magna Carta for Workers in the Informal Economy” that promotes the rights and affords protection and mechanisms, such as the security of livelihood and the security of workplace, to workers in the informal economy to usher in their transition from the informal sector to the formal economy.
Based on the 2018 Informal Sector Survey (ISS), the PSA roughly estimated that there are 15.68 million or 38% of our total working population are workers in the informal economy. The PSA also estimates that the informal sector contributes more than a third of our country’s GDP, contributing around 5 trillion to our economy in 2016.
e) It is equally urgent that we adopt measures to safeguard the rights of workers in the modern digital economy. The study of the economic consultancy firm AlphaBeta reveals that digital transformation can provide as much as ₱5 trillion annual economic value to our country by 2030. AlphaBeta’s report points to the “productivity effect” wherein new, higher quality, and more meaningful jobs will emerge through the improved productivity ushered in by modern technologies.
f) Revitalize the country’s infrastructure program by anchoring the current Marcos administration’s “Build, Better, More” on the establishment of a national railways system, regional agri-industrial hubs, and farm-to-market secondary hubs for sustainable long term regional and provincial economic development that creates decent jobs for Filipino workers. The TUCP projects 4 million sustainable decent jobs for 2022 to 2023 from these infrastructure programs.
g) Restore the COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) for the affected workers of firms that will be forced to trim down their operations or shut down due to the current socio-economic downturn.
“On a final note, TUCP urges the Government economic managers to dispose their business-as-usual mindsets and embrace the paradigm shift brought about by these challenging and changing times we live in—act with the deepest sense of urgency and dispatch to save jobs and save lives,” emphasized Deputy Speaker Mendoza.