KUWAIT continued on the front pages of media this week, as President Duterte banned the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Arab nation, which had ordered the Philippine ambassador to leave in the wake of a video showing two maltreated Filipino maids escaping with the aid of Philippine embassy staff.
It was also this week that we celebrated Labor Day and President Duterte signed an executive order prohibiting illegal labor contracting and subcontracting or “endo,” which organized labor, however, considered inadequate.
In the same week, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) released its findings in a survey that the number of jobless Filipinos has now increased to 23.9 percent of the population – around 10.9 million persons – from only 15.7 percent or 7.2 million people a year earlier.
These were separate front-page stories, but they had a common thread running through them. They were all related to the problem of unemployment in the Philippines, which in turn is behind the problem of poverty.
Today, we have Filipinos working in Kuwait, in Saudi Arabia, in the United States, in many other countries, because there is no work for them here. Many of those who manage to find work in the Philippines find only temporary contractual jobs. And these are even more fortunate than those who cannot find work at all, who now find themselves among the 10.9 million jobless Filipinos identified by the SWS survey.
President Duterte issued an executive order on Labor Day penalizing illegal contractualization, but labor leaders claim many manpower agencies do not comply with the minimum wage law and do not provide benefits like those of the Social Security System. The President said Congress will have to enact a more effective and more lasting solution than can be achieved by an executive order.
The Philippine economy today is being supported by many programs such as the system of overseas work. The remittances of our OFWs have helped tremendously in keeping our economy afloat. We are fortunate that we have attracted so many Business Process Outsourcing operations. And we have many foreign firms now in our Philippine Economic Zones, all with local partners and with local workers.
But our ultimate goal must be national economic development with both the government and private enterprise working together to provide more widespread employment. The initial efforts of the current administration have been to fight drugs, corruption, criminality, and terrorism. But, starting with “Build, Build, Build,” we are confident that it will now devote more of its attention to striving for economic progress for the nation as a whole and for its individual citizens.
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