On DOLE opening local job market to foreign workers due to “shortage” “Absurd, atrocious and downright delusional” – Migrante

Global alliance of overseas Filipino Migrante International  lambasted the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for even having the gall to announce that the local labor market is allowing entry of foreign workers due to a so-called “shortage of applicants.”

“It is simply so wrong on so many levels we were rendered speechless for a second. There is a plethora of reasons on why this move is untimely, if not downright delusional. That the DOLE even has the audacity to announce such a thing is absurd, atrocious and awfully insulting to millions of our Filipino workers and professionals here and abroad. Sec. Baldoz, President Noynoy, are you on drugs?” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.

Martinez said that the worsening unemployment rate in the country belies any claims that there is a “shortage of applicants”.

According to the March 2013 Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, the Philippines has a 27.2% unemployment rate or more than 11.1 million Filipinos are jobless. This is a 3.7% increase from the unemployment rate recorded in the last quarter of 2012 and a far cry from the unemployment figures of our Asian neighbors Singapore (1.7%), Malaysia (3%), Korea (3%), China (4.1%), Taiwan (4.3%), Vietnam (4.4%) and Indonesia (6.5%).

Thinktank IBON Foundation, meanwhile, pegged the number of unemployed Filipinos at 4.4 million in 2012 (an increase of 48,000 from 2011) while the number of underemployed has reached 7.5 million (an increase of 349,000 from 2011), showing a significant 20% increase in underemployment from the year before.

“The main problem is the Aquino government continues to attempt to downplay the jobs crisis by claiming lower unemployment rates (1.4 million jobs created in 2011 and 3.1 million jobs created in 2012). However, what it fails to mention is that the jobs created were either short-term, contractual and highly disproportional to the ever-growing labor force,” Martinez said.

He added that those who do land domestic jobs suffer very low wages. Since 2001, the gap between the mandated minimum wage and the family living wage (FLW) in the National Capital Region has considerably widened. In 2001, minimum wage was 52% of the FLW. By March 2013, the P456 NCR minimum wage was only 44% of the P1,034 FLW.

“Worsening joblessness feeds on chronically low wages, with the current minimum wage grossly inadequate to sustain even the most humble of families.  Family incomes are not keeping up with the inflation and continuous price hikes. No wonder more Filipinos now consider themselves poor,” Martinez said.

In search of jobs and higher wages and livelihood, the number of overseas Filipino workers and professionals has increased significantly since Aquino took office, Martinez said. By 2012, at least one-fourth of the country’s labor force has gone abroad to find work, while 64.3% of unemployed Filipinos were actively looking for jobs abroad (Labor Force Survey, January 2012).

“This figure can only be attributed to the Aquino government’s more aggressive labor export policy that thrives on Filipino workers and proffessionals’ desperation. Last year, the government deployed 2 million OFWs and professionals abroad, the biggest in history. So again, how can the DOLE stomach this absurdity? How can they say that there is a shortage of job applicants when it is the government itself that is forcing and peddling a huge number of our skilled workers to foreign shores?” Martinez said.

Martinez also slammed DOLE Sec. Baldoz’ explanation that the move is borne out of a need to “liberalize the labor market”. “Matagal nang liberalized ang labor market dahil sa labor export policy. For the government to claim that we are now in a position to be at the receiving instead of the sending end of trade labor liberalization is preposterous considering the ridiculously high unemployment rate.”

The migrant leader also said that OFWs especially took offense at the DOLE’s statement that foreign workers would be exempt from fees and other requirements under the guise of “liberalization”. “What a callous remark considering the recent opposition of OFWs against the 160% Philhealth premium hike and other state exactions imposed on OFWs!”

According to Martinez, to genuinely address unemployment and the problem of forced migration, the government’s labor policies should focus on developing national economy by advancing local industries, agriculture and basic services.

“What we genuinely need is national industrialization and genuine land reform, not policies such as these that are concocted out of grand illusions and delusions,” Martinez said. ###