“Empowering women means providing them economic opportunities: by creating regular, reliable, and respectable jobs, as well as by giving decent living wages.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA — For the past six years, Joan Cherreguine, 42, has been fighting back sadness being away from her two sons. She is working as a domestic helper in Qatar. She is a single parent, and only earned P200 a day as a teller in a Lotto outlet in Bulacan. She decided to try her luck abroad. By that time, his younger son was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease, a childhood illness that affects the blood vessels.
“Napakaliit ng kita sa bansa natin, kaya naisipan kong makipagsapalaran sa malayong lugar. Mahirap din sa isang single parent na katulad ko na buhayin ang dalawang anak sa maliit na sinasahod nung dyan pa ako nagtatrabaho sa bansa natin,” (Our wages here at home is so low, so I thought of risking it in distant lands. It’s so hard for a single parent like me to raise my two children with the meager pay I get working in our country) Cherreguine told Bulatlat in an email interview.
In Ulat Lila 2016, the report by the research and training institution Center for Women’s Resources, Filipino people’s lives did not get any better under President Aquino. It said that under Aquino, the people’s clamor for regular jobs and decent wages persisted.
“Jobs in the country remained scarce. Getting a regular job and decent wage remained scarcer,” the report read.
Citing the July 2015 Labor Force Survey (LFS), the CWR report said 2.72 million Filipinos were unemployed. Of these, 1.03 million or 37.9 percent were women. The lower number of unemployed women compared to their male counterparts can be attributed to the limited number of women counted in the labor force (only 49 percent), the report read.
No regular jobs
The Aquino administration offered no regular jobs for Filipino women. Citing the Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES) data, the report said the number of seasonal or temporary workers and daily/weekly workers increased faster than the number of hired permanent workers.
Since 2010, the number of those employed in permanent jobs gained merely four percent while the seasonal or temporary workers posted a 16 percent increase and those employed on a daily or weekly basis increased by 73 percent. “Meaning, the jobs created lacked security and just offered a temporary employment,” the report said.
Aside from non-permanent work, wages also remained low, said the report. In the regions, the minimum wage is P300 ($6.30) on the average. In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the region with the highest poverty incidence, daily minimum wage was from P222 ($4.68) to P250 ($5.28), which had been the average range in five years.
Cherreguine for one, had gone through various jobs. She worked as a sales clerk, sales secretary and records clerk but all were not regular jobs. As she got older, she had difficulty finding a job because of age limits. Her latest job before she left the Philippines was a teller where she worked for three years. But the salary was just too low.
She said even if it was painful to leave her two sons to her mother, she looked for a job abroad because she had no choice. “I have to be strong for my two children so that somehow I can give them a better future. I am here because of them,” she said.
According to the report, during the Aquino administration, the labor export policy facilitated the deployment of overseas contract workers, especially in the low-skilled and lowly paid jobs.
The 2014 Survey on Overseas Filipinos shows that there were approximately 1.17 million women working abroad, mostly in Saudi Arabia (19 percent), UAE (18 percent), Hong Kong (9 percent), Singapore (8.7 percent), and Kuwait (8.3 percent).
More than six out of 10 (64 percent) of these women were young women aged 34 and below. Seven out of 10 (72 percent) worked as laborers and unskilled workers, service and sales workers such as domestic workers, caregivers, cleaners, among others. “They also received low wages compared to their male counterparts, thus, they could only spare little amount for them as they send remittances to their families.”
Women in the countryside
Meanwhile in the countryside, landless farmers work as farm workers in big plantations and agri-corporations for corn, pineapple, coconut, banana, and other products for export. They also work in big fishing corporations as wage and salary workers.
The report said that in 2014, more than 3.5 million farmers, including 701,000 women, were employed as wage and salary workers in the agriculture and fishing sector. But these women earned inadequately.
Citing the Philippine Statistical Authority, the report said the daily average wage of agricultural workers was only P170 ($3.50) per day. Women agricultural workers earned less than their male counterparts. Women farm workers earn a daily average wage of P152 ($3) compared to the men’s P175 ($3.70).
“The lower wage of women indicated how corporations give lower importance to women’s contribution in agricultural production,” the report said.
With lesser income, these women farmers sought alternative means to earn extra for their families. The report said many women were lured into borrowing from micro-lending institutions that specifically targets women as clients.
Most of these micro-lending and micro-financing institutions, said the report, were funded or heavily promoted by the International Monetary Fund-World Bank (IMF-WB). These lending institutions encouraged rural poor women – just like what they did with urban poor women – to become entrepreneurs.
However, the report said many rural women used the money loaned from these institutions for the family’s daily needs, instead of using it as capital for small business ventures.
“In the end, women got mired deep in debt because of interest rates and their inability to pay. As main clients, women faced the penalties of these institutions when they failed to pay their loan plus its interest.”
With their debt piling up, women are forced to work extra through selling rice cakes or vegetables, raising livestock and poultry, doing laundry or cleaning for other households. The report said most peasant women toiled for more than 16 hours a day.
If their extra work still does not suffice, some women opt to work overseas or as helper in the cities.
“The pull of internal and external migration just so to earn made peasant women vulnerable to illegal recruitment and trafficking, as in the case of human trafficking victim Mary Jane Veloso,” the report said. Veloso, a single mother with two sons from Nueva Ecija, was convicted of drug trafficking and remains in death row in Indonesia.
Several administrations have passed and yet poor women still continue to suffer from lack of permanent jobs.
‘Empowerment through employment’
Cherreguine said the government should create more regular jobs for Filipinos whether they are old or inexperienced. She also lamented that certain requirements are hindering women from landing a job.
Women are tired of empty promises; genuine change must be upheld, said the report.
For this election, one main demand of women is employment.
“Empowering women means providing them economic opportunities: by creating regular, reliable, and respectable jobs, as well as by giving decent living wages,” said the CWR.
The report explained, “Jobs for women denote regular work that develops their full potential as productive forces of the country’s economy. This could only happen when a policy for national industrialization, which relies on the riches and resources of the country, will be implemented.”