Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 2, Number 24 July 21 - 27, 2002 Quezon City, Philippines
Cost of Living and Purchasing Power
When President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo delivers her second State of the Nation Address on July 22, she will definitely paint a rosy picture of the national situation and will promise once again a better future. But what can one expect in a situation of poverty and deprivation? Instead of using traditional economic indicators like GNP and GDP, shouldn’t wages, cost of living and purchasing power be important indicators to analyze the people’s quality of life?
DANILO ARAÑA ARAO
28, is a public school teacher in Manila who describes herself as
“diligent.” She is never absent and she makes it a point to be on time for
her classes that start at 7 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m.
the first time, however, she will cut classes on July 22 (Monday) because her
principal denied her request to go on leave. From hindsight, she laments her
mistake of telling her superior that she wants to join the scheduled
mobilization of cause-oriented groups as President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
delivers her second State of the Nation Address (SONA).
still remembers the exact words the principal used in denying her request:
“Ang mga magra-rally, maraming pinoproblema. Wala ka namang problema. Kumpara
sa iba, mataas naman ang suweldo mo (Those who will join the rally have a lot of
problems. You don’t have any. Compared to others, your salary is high).”
those classified as Teacher 1 (Salary Grade 10) like Tess earn around P10,000
monthly ($198.49 based on exchange rate of P50.38 per US dollar). While her
salary is more than the minimum daily wage of P280 ($5.56) in Metro Manila, Tess
confides that she still finds it hard to provide for the needs of her family.
I’m having problems making ends meet, I can only imagine what minimum wage
earners go through. Nabubuhay pa kaya sila (Are they still surviving?),” she
realizes the need to know pressing issues and concerns. She sees the
mobilization on Monday as an opportunity to interact with workers.
a Math teacher, she is used to numbers. But at this point, she wants to see the
faces behind the statistics so that she may be able to share more to students
the reality outside the classroom.
on the government’s labor force survey of April 2002, Tess is aware that there
are 4.9 million unemployed Filipinos. While 30.2 million people have jobs, 15.5
million (51%) of them are either own-account (i.e., self-employed) or unpaid
14.7 million Filipinos are wage and salary workers. Having regular income within
the duration of employment, however, does not mean that they are already better
off compared to the unemployed ones.
in 2001 and 2002
Analyzing the figures in December 2001 and May 2002, the daily minimum wage rates increased in 11 out of 16 regions. The hike, however, only ranged from P6 or $0.12 (CARAGA) to P20 or $0.40 (Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Central Mindanao). There were no wage hikes in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Bicol and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). (See Table 1)
This means that on the average, the daily minimum wage rates increased by only P11.97 or $0.24 (i.e., P263.34 or $5.23 on a monthly basis).
and Cost of Living
the years, the daily minimum wage has not been enough to meet the high cost of
living. Bulatlat.com’s monitor of the 1997 to 2002 statistics shows that wages
only fulfilled 49% (1998) to 54% (2000, 2002) of cost of living requirements.
for the latter are Bulatlat.com estimates based on the government’s cost of
living computations in 1988 which are inflated using the June consumer price
indices (CPIs) from 1997 to 2002.)
As of June 2002, a family of six living in Metro Manila needs P529.38 ($10.51) to meet food and nonfood requirements daily. The daily minimum wage in the area, however, is only P280 ($5.56). For non-agricultural areas outside Metro Manila, the daily minimum wage of P188.77 ($3.75) is not enough to provide for a family of six, given the P419.04 ($8.32) daily cost of living. (See Tables 2 and 3)
Power and Wage Erosion
if low wages and high cost of living are not enough, workers also face the
reality of low purchasing power. As of June 2002, purchasing power of the peso
is estimated at P0.61 ($0.01). (Purchasing power refers to the buying capacity
when compared to a given base year, in this case 1994.)
This means that compared to the situation eight years ago, the current prices of goods and services are so high that what a person can buy for only P0.61 ($0.01) then would now cost them P1.00 ($0.02). This also implies that one’s money today has already lost 39% of its value. (See Table 4)
real wages, therefore, in Metro Manila and in areas outside Metro Manila are
P171.05 ($3.40) and P114.34 ($2.27), respectively.
Real State of the Nation
According to Tess, we can only know the real state of the nation by interacting with the basic sectors of society. That is what she intends to do, even if it means getting her principal’s ire. According to her, a committed educator must learn the reality in order to teach better, and she believes that her students deserve nothing less than to know the truth. Bulatlat.com