By BENJIE OLIVEROS
The Aquino government, according to its Twitter posts, intends to declare as ‘milestones’: the purported decrease in unemployment and the 13th month pay tax exemptions. Filipinos have a term for this: “consuelo de bobo.”
According to data and analysis of Ibon Foundation, the country is still suffering from the worst unemployment and underemployment rates in the country’s history. This festering problem is made to look better by manipulating definitions of “employed” to include those who have worked a few hours a week.
Consider this alarming data from Ibon, 47.3% of all unemployed, as of January 2015, were in the 15-24 year old age-group; a third (31.6%) of all unemployed were in the 25-34 age group.
More from Ibon: “Almost three out of 10 (33.4%) unemployed had a college education, with at least 20.4% actually having graduated. Moreover, 7 of 10 unemployed youth were high-school or college-educated. In 2014, some 553,706 graduated from college yet only 518,000 jobs were created the year before.”
This means the real economy is not growing and could not accommodate the new entrants to the labor force every year. For example, of the one million jobs the government is boasting that it created last year, 70 percent are either part time work or self employment.
The K+12 program would not help because as it is, 70 percent of unemployed youth are high school graduates already and some have even reached college.
Of those who are able to land full time, wage and salary jobs, an increasing majority have no security of tenure. Contractualization has been so prevalent that a new word has evolved “endo,” meaning end of contract. Those who have been working continuously for years without security of tenure are even better off than those who work for five months then have to apply for another job on another five-month contract, with this process going on and on. The latter are the victims of “endo.”
Salaries and wages are way below the living wage. And when workers begin to fight for their rights and form a union, they are summarily dismissed from work, regardless of their status and length of service.
Thus, it is not surprising that, according to data from Ibon, everyday an average of 5,202 Filipinos left the country to work abroad during the first nine months of 2014, an increase from the 5,031 who left everyday in 2013.
The government has been encouraging, nay selling, Filipino workers abroad to earn from the exactions and the inflow of dollar remittances and to mitigate the ever worsening unemployment and underemployment problem in the country. Thus, when OFWs run into trouble, the government’s immediate response is to appease the host country for fear of losing the job placements in that country.
Ever wondered why the governments of Australia and France warned of consequences in diplomatic, political and economic relations if their citizens were executed by Indonesia while the Aquino government scrambled to assure it that nothing changes in the country’s relations with it even if Mary Jane Veloso was to be executed.
So the youth finds difficulties in finding work, while young workers have to move from one work to another, and older workers have been losing their rights and their jobs. And all are not being paid enough. Ever wonder why Filipinos risk working abroad? But the more important question is: Could this country function, much less prosper, without its workers?