30 September 2023
President Bongbong Marcos’ signing of the so-called “Trabaho Para sa Bayan” Act on September 27 shows that the unemployment crisis in the country has become so bad that the chief executive has to pretend that he is doing something about it.
It confirms what independent think-tank Ibon Foundation says — that the number of unemployed who have become discouraged by the lack of prospect of finding a job has increased, as shown by the 2.8 million decrease in employed and the small decrease in the unemployed in July 2022-July 2023.
Amidst the non-stop rise in the prices of basic goods and services, and the overall cost of living crisis, unemployment, underemployment and lack of decent jobs are surely felt more intensely the majority of Filipinos. They are growing more restive, even angry, and critical of the Marcos Jr regime.
The law will not solve joblessness in the country as all it does is create a Trabaho Para sa Bayan Inter-Agency Council which will craft a master plan for the next three, six and 10 years. The appointment of the National Economic Development Authority chief as Council leader and of the Labor and Trade and Industry secretaries as co-chairs does not say anything new.
Worse, the soundbytes about the Council’s mandate are not reassuring: “upskilling and reskilling” workers to make them employable and competitive; supporting micro, small, and medium enterprises, as well as industry stakeholders; improving partnership among government agencies and stakeholders; among others.
The “Trabaho Para sa Bayan” Law and the Trabaho Para sa Bayan Inter-Agency Council embody “business as usual,” more of the same, maintaining the status quo that has been proven inept in creating jobs — that’s why they will not solve massive and chronic joblessness in the country.
The country should not depend on foreign investments and foreign countries to provide jobs for Filipinos. The global economic crisis is making foreign investment into the Philippines and jobs in other countries more scarce. It also worsens the exploitative practices of big foreign corporations in relation to the country’s labor and natural resources.
What the country needs to create more and decent jobs is to move away from neoliberal economic policies to nationalist ones. The government should implement genuine land reform and nationalist industrialization to create decent jobs in the country. It must raise wages, junk contractualization, respect workers’ rights to unionize and uphold workers’ rights in general. It must also protect the country’s natural resources from further plunder and destruction.
Only through these measures can joblessness in the country, and the resulting phenomenon of labor export and migration, be solved. The problem is that the Marcos Jr regime is captive to neoliberal dogma, and is subservient to big foreign corporations and governments and the local big elite. All it can do is try to improve its image, and not truly create decent jobs in the country. ###