BY MARYA G. SALAMAT
While the unemployed have very limited options under the employment generation plan of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration, employed workers are being battered by labor contractualization and other flexible work arrangements.
The Macapagal-Arroyo administration boasts that it is handling the economy well claiming a 6.1 percent growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the 4th quarter of 2005. It also said that it was able to generate 750,000 jobs in 2005 and achieved a slight improvement in the unemployment rate in January of 2006 down to 7.4 percent from 7.7 percent.
But a survey conducted by the World Bank revealed that almost a fifth of the Filipino people reported experiencing hunger while about half considered themselves impoverished. If only 7.4 percent of the population is unemployed, how come 17 percent of the population experienced hunger?
Economists have pointed to the unproductive quality of jobs being generated. In 2005 most jobs generated were in unpaid family work in agriculture and in own-account jobs. This is consistent with the employment generation plan of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration. A January article of the Business World revealed that Malacanang hinged its job generation plan on developing agribusiness lands (more of agriculture) and propping up micro businesses to become small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Agriculture and small to medium enterprises historically employ the bulk of the country’s labor force.
Added to this, the Arroyo administration aims to attract foreign investors by providing tax incentives and offering cheap labor in the form of labor flexibilisation.
Analysts have described labor flexibilisation as the preferred labor setup in today’s globalizing economy. This set-up was first implemented in export processing zones and industrial parks.
Macapagal-Arroyo rescinded Department of Labor (DOLE) Order No. 10-97, only to replace it with Order No. 18-02. DOLE Order No. 10-97 provided a list of jobs that cannot be contracted. In doing so, it allowed the contractualization of jobs outside of the list. DOLE Order No.18-02 declared the practice of contractualization as legal for as long as it does not fall within the category of “labor only contracting”, which is measured by the amount of capital and control of the supposed employer. It also equated security of tenure to having a definite contract instead of the regular and permanent status previously enjoyed by workers who have worked for more than six months. Lately, the Arroyo government initiated moves to revise the Labor Code to reinforce and legalize the various practices of labor contractualization.
Contractualization means replacing regular workers with temporary workers who receive lower wages with no or less benefits. These temporary workers are sometimes called contractuals, trainees, apprentices, helpers, casuals, piece raters, agency-hired, project employees, etc. They do the work of regular workers for a specified and limited period of time, usually less then six months. The work they do is “desirable and necessary” for the company’s survival, but they never become regular employees even if they get rehired repeatedly under new contracts.
Citing government data from 1990-94, a research by the Asia-Pacific Research Network (APRN) in 2000 revealed that the combined share of casual, contractual and part-time workers in total enterprise-based employment was between 14-15 percent. It went up to 18.1 percent from 1994 to 1995. By 1997, the figure has reached 21.1 percent, meaning that for every five workers one is a casual, contractual or part-timer worker.
The data excluded other forms of contractual labor arrangements such as subcontracting, agency-hiring, job-out, home work and other schemes that deny workers their security of tenure.
In the more than 20 branches of Shoe Mart (SM), one of the biggest chain of shopping malls in the country, in 2002, nine out of ten workers are contractuals, hired either through an agency or by a concessionaire, said Maristel Garcia, spokesperson of the Sandigan ng mga Manggagawa sa Shoemart, the union of SM employees.