Saturday, May 02, 2009

Historic High Joblessness Should Be Addressed Beyond Token Measures

Press Statement / 1 May 2009
IBON Foundation
Tel. (632) 9277060 to 62
Fax (632) 9292496

The situation of Filipino workers is seen to be at its worst today due to
record high joblessness and widespread lay-offs amid the global crisis,
and more radical reforms are needed beyond token government measures.

The average real employment rate of over 11% from 2001 up to the first
quarter of 2009 is the worst in Philippine history and is seen to even
worsen due to the crisis. Workers in the manufacturing sector are
apparently the hardest hit, as the Philippine exports industry is more
vulnerable due to its dependence on the US markets. Job losses seem most
severe in this sector, which reduced 122,000 jobs from 2008 on top of the
137,000 manufacturing jobs already from the year before.

The severe jobs crisis in the country cannot be addressed squarely by the
so-called Comprehensive Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program
(CLEEP) of the Arroyo administration, which does not veer away from
government’s approach in generating jobs. Part of the emergency package is
still providing assistance of re-deployment to affected overseas Filipino
workers (OFWs) and additional trainings for skills upgrading and
retooling. Moreover, even if the program does create the projected 800,000
jobs this year, it still cannot absorb the more than 900,000 new labor
force entrants, on top of the roughly 11,600 permanently retrenched and
38,800 temporarily laid off workers plus the 12,000 displaced OFWs since
October 2008 when the global crisis imploded.

While government’s response is grossly inadequate, IBON moreover decries
the efforts of government and big businesses to pass the burden of
adjusting to the crisis on workers through wage and benefit cuts and
layoffs. Under the administration’ s Economic Resiliency Plan (ERP), the
Department of Labor is insidiously pushing for flexible work schemes like
rotated force leaves and shortened work shifts supposedly as a response to
the global crisis.

In the face of inadequate solutions to address the crisis, the labor
sector and the economy urgently need aggressive reforms and programs.
Measures that would yield immediate benefits include increasing public
spending for social services, removing the VAT on oil products, freeing
public resources by discontinuing debt payments, among others.

Government should also be in the forefront of defending Filipinos’ jobs,
which should involve implementing programs that will stop flexibility
schemes and other work measures that threaten job security. Filipino
producers should also be given a wide range of government support,
including greater and cheaper access to financing, technology, raw
materials and infrastructure. The domestic market can be oriented towards
giving greater opportunities for Filipino industries even as foreign
markets are actively sought. The government can also improve its
procedures, tax benefits and other incentives for Filipino businesses.

Government’s elite-biased and free-market oriented policies, which have
kept the Philippine economy backward, should be also be drastically
reformed. At the minimum, there should be an overhaul of reckless trade
and investment liberalization policies that have worked against local
industries and the welfare of Filipino workers. (end)

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