Thursday, March 20, 2014

Why Is Labor So Cheap in the Philippines?

       All of us want to improve our quality of life. It is our right to utilize our resources to achieve this. But what can we do if these resources are controlled by an influential few?

      My daughter who came home recently from a bridging program in Australia told me that she was asked by a female Australian nurse on why do Filipino professionals go to foreign countries to work. Her answer was straight and simple: “Our salary in our country is low compared to your country. A nurse in the Philippines earns only P9,000.00 to P10,000.00 or around $200.00 per month”.  Maybe you immediately got the idea that there are already too many registered nurses in the Philippines that is why their salaries are cheap. This is a case of supply and demand in Economics (when the supply is high and the demand is low, employers could command a salary that they can easily maintain and still have a profit). This is true but one should also look into the other factors why this increase in nurses happened. 
     For me, this happened because it is possible that the government especially the Department of Education, state universities and the private schools did not have a comprehensive market study where there is an acceptable projection of supply and demand in their short and long term plans( if there is any). They should also have considered the matching of courses to be taken by students to future job availability and job skills requirement considering various global economic aspects. As a result, the temporary boom in the demand of nurses created an opportunity for universities and colleges to put up their nursing schools. When the demand for nurses did not catch up with the existing number of registered nurses, the government found it hard to just close these schools without encountering certain economic or political repercussion.  There was also a further increase in the number of un-employed nurses because just like in a gold rush, the parents or families saw that if their student(s) would take up a nursing course and thinking that upon graduation they will have the opportunity to work abroad, they can finally upgrade their quality of life.

       It only shows that low quality of life of the people and poverty are also factors to be considered why labor in the Philippines is so cheap. To break the vicious cycle of poverty, families have to work so hard to send their children to school in the hope that this will alleviate their living condition. Perhaps they believe in the saying that: “Give a man a fish and he will survive for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will survive for a lifetime”. But in the case of the Philippines, you can ask: where is the “fish”? There are many high school and college graduates whose skills and technological know-how does not match the qualifications of available jobs. Most of the time though, there are not enough jobs for able citizens that are very much willing to work for any type of job.

     Other intriguing questions are: Why are many Filipinos classified as poor despite the natural resources that abound in the country? Why do shanties proliferate in cities where the people are squatters and living like rats? Why are people forced to work in slave jobs?  Does the government really lack funds for housing and poverty alleviation? It seems that these questions have easy answers but they really do not have easy answers. I was reminded of a story told when I was still in community development:  A development expert is talking to a farmer who is lying down relaxed with no other care.

        Expert:  Sir, don’t you know that if you will be diligent in following my development plan you will have a bigger harvest and you will have more food at the table, you can sell your excess harvest and you will have extra money so you can buy what you want and you can send your child to school. If you have much money in the bank, you can just relax.

        The farmer stared at the expert with an inquisitive look and as if very confident of what he will say and curtly asked the expert.

      Farmer: Mr. Expert why should I burden myself to go through all your development plans when I am now relaxed and enjoying life?

       It is ironical but it is a fact that other people are “poor” by choice. Other people are simply ignorant and are easily tricked or oppressed by the governing party with power and money. This is evident during election of government officials who bribe them with small amount of money, food and drinks.

       The disparity between the rich and poor is getting bigger. The rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer and the resources allocation is always tipping to the rich. Labor laws seem to favor the corporations in terms of salaries and wages. The price of staple food is getting higher and living condition is getting worse. Sources of livelihood are getting scarce despite the effort of the government to provide livelihood and development programs resulting to more foreign debt that controls the priority actions of the government. The World Bank and the IMF has poured their funds into infrastructure and agricultural projects but seemingly ignoring the need for institutional development especially in transparency and good governance or was it expected that these projects would fail to establish more control in the global market?

       Now, why is labor so cheap in the Philippines? Maybe, the billions of pesos lost to corruption every year will also answer the question.

        However, there is always hope that things would go or is going for the better.

1 comment:

  1. All of us want to improve our quality of life. It is our right to utilize our resources to achieve this. But what can we do if these resources are controlled by an influential few?