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Public Service

By Senator Manny Villar

A recent survey conducted by online employment company JobStreet.com revealed that 77% of Filipinos prefer working in the public sector. According to Jobstreet’s “Government Happiness Index” report, respondents cited job security, retirement plan, and career growth as top reasons for wanting to work in the bureaucracy.

There are many ways of looking at, and analyzing surveys. On the surface, I think the study reveals an important shift in the way people view government. The willingness of majority of our people to serve government is commendable. I think this is an offshoot of the tremendous participation of the Filipinos during the last presidential elections and the involvement of people – in social media platforms for instance – in political issues.

The continued trust of people in the political will of the Duterte administration to effect the change it promised is also a big factor to consider. To be fair, I think the participation of people – from all political colors – in political discourse is something we should all encourage.

Simply put, people want to serve in government because they trust their government.

But there is another way of looking at the study. From where I sit, what is interesting about the survey is the question it did not ask and the answers it did not get. Do Filipinos prefer an entrepreneurial career path? Would they rather open up a business than work in a cubicle from 9 to 5?

An important change in the attitude of Filipinos that I believe we need to push is the shift towards a more entrepreneurial mentality. In general, Filipinos develop a desire to work for one of the big companies in one of the central business districts in the country. The idea of going to work with a shirt and tie, sitting inside your own cubicle is somehow very appealing to young professionals.

Somehow, being tied to an office never appealed to me. I tried it after I finished school but the seduction of entrepreneurship was stronger. Rather than being glued to a desk answering to a boss, I preferred a career path where I can provide a solution to people’s problems and where my office is the world.

I decided instead to embark on a path where I own my time rather than being controlled by a time clock; where I am my own boss and I only answer to the people I serve.

Let me be clear: I admire people who devote themselves to public service or to a career in the private sector. What I am saying is that we need to strengthen entrepreneurial development in our country—especially among the Filipino youth.

Early on in their lives, we need to be able to encourage Filipinos to look at the problems around them and figure out what they can do to help solve them. That is what entrepreneurs do. We need to spark that entrepreneurial spirit among the Filipino youth so they do not simply dream of becoming an employee but rather endeavor to putting up an enterprise and creating jobs for others.

But government needs to set up a conducive environment for enterprises. A recent study showed that the Philippines ranked 2nd to last (11th out of 12 countries studied) in Asia Pacific in terms of being the best location for startups. The study cited capital and regulatory requirements and general economic and business conditions as the biggest challenges startup founders face in launching their businesses.

I am confident that this would change given the tremendous economic performance of the country under the leadership of President Duterte and his economic managers. But we need to do more to be able to encourage entrepreneurs to set up new enterprises in the country.

This was the idea behind the partnership that I forged with my alma mater, the University of the Philippines to develop the UP School of Technology Entrepreneurship inside the new UP Alabang campus: to create a platform for a future where brilliant “technopreneurs” can fuse emerging technologies with viable business models and also understand what business environment might help technology grow and form sustainable, profitable businesses.

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