MORE than 30 million minimum wage earners, half of them hired on contractual schemes, remained working poor as the value of purchasing power of their daily wage remained below the standard poverty threshold level, the labor group Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines said.
Labor spokesperson Alan Tanjusay said despite the much ballyhooed report of the country’s consistent high economic growth, majority of Filipinos remained poor.
“These minimum wage earners helped build the country’s high economic wealth but still many are living way below the standard poverty line,” he said.
Tanjusay said the chances to get out of poverty by way of job regularization and security of tenure on employment were forever shut by the recent issuance of Department Order 174.
Rather than prohibiting contractualization, DO 174 of the Department of Labor and Employment ‘legalizes’ and perpetuates contractualization, he said.
Aside from having no security of tenure because they work for less than six months, contractual workers are forever tied to minimum wage.
The National Economic and Development Authority set the Poverty Threshold Level or the standard amount needed by a family of five for them to survive in a month in the year 2015 was P9,064 or P393 a day.
In a monitoring by the ALU-TUCP on the behavior of workers’ purchasing power vis-a-vis cost of living, the real value of Endo (the slang for end of contract) workers’ nominal P491 daily minimum wage in Metro Manila fell to P361.30 in January 2017 which is equivalent to P8,671.20 a month, according to data from the country’s wage board the National Wages and Productivity Commission.
The average real wage amount in regions outside National Capital Region, on one hand, is P250 a day or equivalent to P6,000 per month.
Thus, the buying powers of minimum wages P361 in Metro Manila and P250 in regions outside NCR are inadequate, compared with the P393 amount needed by a family to survive in a day.
It means, minimum wage workers need at least P32 more and P143 more on top of their daily pay for workers within and outside Metro Manila, respectively, to stay within the threshold and considered not poor.
Tanjusay said: “There has been no inclusive growth for MWEs because the buying power of minimum wage is going downward amid rising prices of basic necessities and cost of services.
“Because they have no savings and inadequate government support programs, minimum waged workers are so vulnerable that if they get sick, if they get late or absent from their work, or any small price hike shocks, they fall deeper and deeper into poverty.”
The ALU-TUCP has offered various measures toward helping workers cope with growing inflation, but the government should ban contractualization, provide a minimal cash amount by way of monthly subsidy while reinforcing government’s enforcement of compliance to labor and price regulations.
Employers, on the other hand, could help their employees cope with poverty by voluntarily providing across-the-board wage increase and implement in-house programs providing their employees with cash and non-cash benefits, Tanjusay said.
Government defines poverty threshold as the minimum income required to meet food and non-food needs of a family of five including clothing, housing, transportation, health and educational expenses.
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