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Job displacement up

Returning OFWs from Middle East on the rise A sectoral group for overseas Filipino workers warned the government on Wednesday of a looming large-scale return of Filipinos from Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries because of strict employment policies abroad. John Leonard Monterona, vice-chairman of party-list Migrante, said the Aquino government should prepare for “OFWs reverse migration phenomenon” to cushion its impact to their families and the country’s economy. “What’s happening in Saudi Arabia and other middle east countries is actually the shrinking of labor markets, and its immediate impact is jobs displacement,” Monterona said. “Around 120,000 OFWs are directly affected by Saudization, including an estimated 28,000 undocumented OFWs,” he said. Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia have until July 3 to fix their papers or face repatriation. About 12,000 have sought government assistance at the Philippine embassy. More than 200 have been repatriated since April. But the number could go up in the next several weeks as about 5,000 have arrived from Syria and look forward to their return home. Monterona said unemployment in the country stood at 7.5 percent of the labor force, which means around three million in April 2013 compared to 6.9 percent for the same month last year. “Who didn’t want reverse migration for good? Yes, we still hope for it. But this will never happen if the country has only superficial GDP growth that only a few rich ... gain from it,” he said. Youth Group Anakbayan accused the Aquino Administration of “deliberate neglect” for the rise in the number of unemployed Filipinos last April, the highest in the first quarter this year at 7.5 percent. Anakbayan national chairman Vencer Crisostomo said the record-high unemployment rate was a result of unsound economic policies and not bad weather that affected the agriculture sector as claimed by the government. “For decades, the agricultural sector has been chronically stunted. Any effects caused by adverse weather conditions merely worsened the situation,” Crisostomo said. The National Economic Development Authority said agricultural posted the biggest drop in job generation. Unemployment rose amid a 7.8 percent first quarter growth reported by Malacanang. About 31 percent of Filipinos are engaged in agriculture. A decrease in the sector means lost opportunities for people in the rural areas. Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano proposed funding for labor-intensive infrastructure and agricultural projects such as irrigation systems, farm-to-market roads to address the unemployment problem. He said the government can also lend equipment and materials and cooperatives can provide labor for projects that will generate jobs and provide income to people in the rural areas. Sen. Loren Legarda called on government to promote the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Law to help entrepreneurs provide income to poor families in the countryside. “The MSME law helps facilitate the access of micro, small and medium enterprises to sources of funds and assure them access to a fair share of government contracts,” Legarda said. “The law sees to it that micro and small enterprises availing of financing programs and incentives are not required to undergo burdensome collateral requirements that small enterprises find difficulty in complying with,” she said. But Crisostomo said the root of the problem can be traced to the present and previous administrations that made our economy “export oriented.” “Instead of modernizing our agricultural sector to achieve food independence and provide a base for developing our local industries, it has been reduced to a mere provider of food products for foreign supermarkets and tables,” Crisostomo said. He said the government has been pushing hard for “labor export” and “business process outsourcing” while programs for agricultural modernization and genuine agrarian reform have been ignored. Unemployment worsened to 7.5 percent last April, the highest in three years, despite the 7.8 percent growth in the economy. There were 3.09 million unemployed in the country as of April, up from 2.89 million in January.  With Gigi Muñoz-David, Macon Ramos-Araneta
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