OFWs ask PNoy: What jobs?

“If decent-paying domestic jobs were really available, OFWs wouldn’t be scurrying to go out of the country.” This was the reaction of Migrante Partylist to President Benigno Aquino III’s statement that local jobs are available but there is a shortage of job applicants.

Connie Bragas- Regalado, chairperson of Migrante Partylist, said that the number of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) continued to rise under the Aquino administration. “In search of jobs, higher wages and livelihoods, the number of Filipinos overseas and those leaving everyday have been on the rise since Aquino took office,” she said.

Bragas-Regalado belied claims of rising employment by the Aquino administration. “By October 2011, an additional 1.35 million Filipinos has been forced to go abroad by sheer lack of opportunities, decent jobs and wages, livelihood and social services in the country.”

According to independent think-tank Ibon Foundation, the number of jobless Filipinos has risen to unprecedented heights since 2010 and continues to reach record-high levels under Aquino. “At least one-fourth of the country’s labor force has gone abroad to find work. So we ask the president now, where are the domestic jobs that he claims to have created?” she asked.

She also disputed Aquino’s claims that Filipino workers are short in skill, explaining the shortage of job applications. “This cannot be farther from the truth. Our highly skilled OFWs are testament to how capable and competent our workers are.”

Instead, she said, the Aquino administration is simply attempting to downplay the worsening jobs crisis by claiming a higher job generation rate. “However, he failed to mention that the jobs created were disproportional to the ever-growing labor force (an additional 1.2 million by July 2011) and underemployed (an additional 829,000). The number of jobless and underemployed Filipinos increased by over 600,000 during Aquino’s first year in office alone.”

“While, those who do land domestic jobs suffer very low wages,” she added. By end of 2011, the P426 NCR minimum wage was only 43 percent of the P993 family living wage (FLW).

“Worsening joblessness feeds on already chronically low wages, with the current minimum wage grossly inadequate to sustain even the most humble of families,” Bragas-Regalado said.

Bragas-Regalado said that the continuous rise in unemployment will mean further intensification of the government’s labor export policy.

“This is attested by the yearly increasing growth rate of labor outmigration. Aside from the 4,500 who leave the country daily who pass through the POEA, millions depart through irregular means. They are those who become victims of trafficking and illegal recruitment, who eventually become undocumented in their countries of transit or destination with the hope of landing jobs despite not having regular documents.”

She said, the Philippine economy’s dependence on labor export and remittances has become unparalleled under the Aquino administration. Only through taking steps in building the domestic economy and ensuring social welfare intervention can joblessness and forced migration be truly addressed.

“Without these, the Philippine economy cannot be a rising tiger, only a mythical beast feasting on the desperation of our Filipino labor force.” ###