Growth Outlook Glosses over Low Wages

More than the reported 5.5 percent growth in the local output, statistics on wages are more reflective of the economic situation. It would do well for government to address the fundamental problems besetting the poor instead of spreading misguided optimism just to win over the hearts and minds of the Filipino people.

BY DANILO ARAÑA ARAO
Bulatlat.com

The publicity about the gross domestic product (GDP) or local output growth by 5.5 percent in the second quarter of 2006 may give the Macapagal-Arroyo propaganda points. But it means nothing to the poor especially the workers.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said that along with the steady GDP growth, “The rally of our money and stock markets,…improved fiscal footing and the climbing to an all-time high of our Gross International Reserves as well as direct investments will help push our nation forward towards our goal of emplacing the Philippine among the ranks of the first world within the next two decades.”

Even Ifzal Ali, chief economist of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), said that the year “2006 has been a very good year” for the Philippines, adding that the country’s economic growth this year “would hit 5.4 percent, higher than the previous projection of 5.0 percent.”

Such optimism may be considered misplaced and even callous if one were to analyze the plight of the workers. Despite the wage increases granted in July and August for all 17 regions in the country, there is no qualitative change in their wages since workers still cannot provide for the needs of their families.

Data from the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) show that the daily minimum wages currently range from P200 or $3.96 (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM) to P350 or $6.93 (National Capital Region). These, however, are still too little to meet the food and non-food needs of a family of six.

As of July 2006, the daily family living wage ranges from P472 or $9.35 (Eastern Visayas) to P993 or $19.66 (ARMM). In the case of NCR-based workers, the daily minimum wage of P350 ($6.93) is still not enough since the family income needed amounts to P756 ($14.97). This translates to a wage disparity of P10,556 ($209.03) monthly.

Workers in the ARMM are in the worst situation since they are given the lowest daily minimum wage of P200 ($3.96), but they have to contend with the highest family living wage amounting to P993 ($19.66). The gross monthly income of ARMM-based workers therefore is short by P20,618 ($408.28).

More than the reported 5.5 percent growth in the local output statistics, wages are more reflective of the economic situation. It would do well for government to address the fundamental problems besetting the poor instead of spreading misguided optimism just to win over the hearts and minds of the Filipino people. (Bulatlat.com)

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