Same as his predecessors, President Rodrigo Duterte’s midterm track record leaves behind anti-worker policies, poor employment, and stagnant real wages in the Philippines, despite increasing labor productivity and buzz over high economic growth rates, according to a labor nongovernment organization.
Citing World Bank and official labour statistics, the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) noted that minimum wage workers in the Philippines did not feel any improvement at all under Duterte as there is no substantial increase in minimum wages amidst inflation and rising costs of goods and services. EILER added that for almost three decades, workers’ real wages remained stagnant.
EILER Executive Director Rochelle Porras outlined that:
“President Duterte refuses to break away from implementing neoliberal policies. Duterte’s neoliberal economic agenda include continuing implementation of wage regionalization and labor deregulation that further presses down workers’ wages in favor of foreign capitalists.”
The largest increase granted under Duterte was only Php 56 in Davao region given in two tranches (August 2018 and February 2019). This slightly raised the daily take home pay of non-agricultural workers from Php 340 to Php 396. The increase does not concretely consider the effects of inflation and is still far from the computed family living wage of Php 1,004 for family of five (IBON, 2019). Wage increases are also given in tranches or as mere forms of reclassification and simplification, which are not for immediate implementation. Porras emphasized that the minimum wage for agricultural workers in ARMM is the lowest, at Php 270 per day.
EILER further raises that data from Philippine Statistics Authority’s Annual Labour and Employment Estimates for 2018 show an alarmingly poor employment record. The statistics indicate that while the working age population in 2018 increased by 1.4 million, many couldn’t anymore be absorbed in the labor force.
The estimates show the dismal performance of the labor market in 2018 that could only absorb 46.4% of the additional 1.4 million Filipinos at working age. This means that 776,000 (54.6%) Filipinos of working age were simply discarded from the labor force.
Porras said that:
“The dismal performance of the labor market is the result of the neoliberal cheap labor policy of Duterte administration. The statistics show that the Duterte administration miserably fails to provide regular and decent jobs with its ambitious Build Build Build program pegged at Php 8-trillion. Billions have been spent but the creation of jobs remain a sordid illusion,”
EILER emphasized that Duterte administration did not address the legitimate demands of the workers and that was why in 2018, workers launched simultaneous nationwide strikes and different labour confederations marched in unity on May Day demanding higher wages and total ban on contractualization.
Porras concluded that:
“This is also why on the International Labor Day 2019, we are in solidarity with the Filipino workers against neoliberal economic policies. We continue to support the demand for immediate wage increase through a national minimum wage of Php 750 per day and ending all forms of contractualization. Workers deserve their share of the wealth produced and this is long overdue,”
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