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Workers-employers’ partnership needed for sustained growth

As the nation observes Labor Day, it may be well to revisit what the Philippine Constitution provides in Article XIII on Social Justice and Human Rights. Section 3 states: “The State shall afford full protection to labor, local and overseas, organized and unorganized, and promote full employment and equality of employment opportunities for all.”

Most recently, the Marcos administration adopted a new concept that fleshes out and expands the Constitution’s intent. According to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the government shall institutionalize the concept of a Social Protection Floor (SPF) “which refers to a nationally defined set of basic social security guarantees that aim to prevent or alleviate poverty vulnerability and social exclusion.” It is comprised of four basic guarantees that cover the entire life cycle: Health (including maternity care), children, active age, and older persons.

Those in the labor sector are covered by the guarantees on active age. The SPF for active age is comprised of initiatives that support Filipinos who are unable to earn sufficient income, including those who are part of the informal economy.

The incumbent national leadership has prioritized the provision of social safety nets and ensuring adequate social protection to the most vulnerable members of the active age category, thereby demonstrating its humanistic orientation.

The administration may now wish to focus its attention, too, on a long-festering issue: the workers’ clamor for a living wage.

The minimum daily wage in Metro Manila has been set at P570. IBON Foundation observes “that inflation pushed up the family living wage in the NCR for a family of five to P1,161 in February 2023.” As commonly understood, “living wage refers to a theoretical income level that allows individuals or families to afford adequate shelter, food, and other necessities,” as well as prevent them from falling into poverty.
This chasm between the minimum wage and the family living wage widened as a result of the deep recession triggered by the pandemic in 2020. Recall, too, that the level of involuntary hunger also rose as the ranks of the unemployed swelled.

While it is true that many micro-, small and medium-scale enterprises may not be able to pay the family living wage, it is also true that paying sub-optimal wages also deters productivity. Adequately-compensated workers would be more highly motivated to increase their output such that their employers’ revenues would be augmented substantially.

Even as earnest efforts are being exerted to ensure adequate social protection and attractive terms of employment for workers here in the Philippines, the number of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) still increased to 1.825 million in 2021 compared to 1.771 million in 2020. In dialogues with OFW communities while on official visits abroad, President Marcos has urged them to invest in the Philippines. But as many of them have pointed out, they are still hard-pressed making both ends meet.

Finally, there must be enhanced bayanihan between employers and workers. For their mutual benefit, they must find ways of working harmoniously such that their enterprises operate profitably and grow sustainably.


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