Rise in casual workers seen

Published by rudy Date posted on April 21, 2009

MANILA, Philippines — An increase in the hiring of casual workers is seen among companies exercising cost-saving measures to combat the global financial crunch, labor experts and economists said on Tuesday.

“[There is a trend of] replacing regular workers with younger, casual workers, which are unprotected, vulnerable, and lowly-paid,” said Clarence Pascual, labor economist, in a news forum on job creation and security Tuesday.

Gyorgy Sziraczki, senior economist for Asia and the Pacific of the International Labor Organization, said this “shifting of the balance of power” has placed employers in a better position compared to employees and labor organizations.

With this, Sziraczki said there is a need for cooperation between employers and employees during the economic crisis, which will then help the government draft better economic and labor policies that will protect both parties.

Dr. Benjamin Diokno, professor at the University of the Philippines School of Economics, stressed the importance of protecting labor amid the global financial crisis, which he said would extend for a longer period.

But Diokno said that apart from cooperation between employers and employees, the government, too, should have a long term solution that would address the problems of labor.

He criticized the present administration for being “distracted” on other issues.

“The present administration has no long-term solution to the unemployment problem. Expect more muddling through. The next administration will end up inheriting a severely weaker economy — higher joblessness, higher level of public debt, and slow moving,” Diokno said in his presentation.

Unemployment rate slowly increased from 2007 to 2008, from 2.6 million to 2.71 million, Diokno said. The underemployment rate, meanwhile, decreased from 6.75 million in 2007 to 6.58 million in 2008.

The industry most affected by the financial crunch, Pascual said, was the manufacturing industry, where a drop from 3.0 million to 2.8 million was seen from October 2007 to January this year.

The P330-billion stimulus package of the government, Diokno said, would only serve as a “short-term” solution to the financial crisis.

“The fiscal stimulus program is a necessary, though, short-term solution. But it appears to be too small, too late; appears because it’s not transparent too,” he added.

With this, Diokno proposed the following solutions:

* Diversify exports: citing “changing consumer behavior,” Diokno said export diversification is “imperative.”

* Revisit the labor export policy: an unwanted consequence of the large Filipino overseas workers’ remittances is that important policy reforms have been postponed or ignored, Diokno said.

* Adopt and implement a strong population management program: Diokno said this could be done through the Reproductive Health Bill to “improve the social and economic welfare of the representative Filipino.”

* Reform the tax system and the budget process: Diokno proposed higher taxes imposed on consumption and lower taxes imposed on income. –Abigail Kwok, INQUIRER.net

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