Band-Aid is being taped over the gaping wound of joblessness. Government is succumbing to the loudest outcry, for now, to illegalize “endo,” or untimely “end of contract” of some temporary workers. Its duty, however, is to find work for all, at the right pay, and keep costs of living down. As Filipinos point up in survey after survey of basic preferences: “Jobs, Wages, Prices.”
Prohibiting endo is redundant. It already is illegal, as it circumvents the Labor Code. It involves laying off probationary hires on the fifth month before costly mandatory regularization by the sixth, then rehiring them for another five months. Workers are deprived of their right to job security. Endo is sometimes done via labor-only contracting of certain factory hands. Employers are able to avoid paying certain benefits, like sick and vacation leaves granted to permanent hires. Hundreds of thousands of victims are mostly unskilled servers and busboys in restaurant chains. But at least they have jobs, with the required social security, health insurance, and housing benefits. About 4.1 million other Filipinos, including college and trade school graduates, can’t find work. Government must focus its attention on jobs for all.
Full employment is the natural solution to endo. All citizens who wish to work will have work, in government and private sectors. It’s like in Europe, New Zealand, and some Asian countries. There nearly all men and women, even seniors and handicapped, gainfully are employed – in factories, offices, shops, hospitals, constructions, farms, sea and airports, ships and airplanes. Unemployment – real, not doctored as in the Philippines – is kept at less than 2.5 percent. The law of supply and demand kicks in. Because nearly all have work, there is a shortage of labor. Employers adapt by recruiting foreigners or automating, but mostly by taking better care of employees. The latter are not fired at will. Bosses in fact are always on the look out for more hands and keep existing complements, so offer spoiling benefits, like higher training, longer paid leaves, and shorter work hours. Sometimes those aren’t enough. In California on summer breaks shops and diners, resorts and recreation parks hire high school and college students as temps to help cope with the deluge of customers and tourists. Japan, China, and Thailand are enticing more women to seek employment due to labor shortage.
Full employment can be achieved through astute economic planning. There must first be core industries, like steel and its offshoots of ship and aircraft building, car making, and weaponry in Europe, North America, Japan and Korea. Other lines become job-generators too: info technology, social media, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, tourism, and agriculture. From those spring yet more businesses, in services and support enterprises.
Education must suit such industries, Doctors of Economics Vicente Paqueo and Aniceto Orbeta prescribe. A major reason for Philippine unemployment is jobs mismatch. Industrialized Southern Tagalog, for instance, can’t find the right experts, like chemists or physicists, and not just the usual business management or accounting grads. Concomitantly, Paqueo and Orbeta suggest, labor unions can help members acquire new skills to land jobs in emergent fields, like electric vehicles, health supplements, and home deliveries.
Economic liberalization is a must for jobs to multiply. Monopolies and cartels must be broken down, especially in the import and trading of rice, garlic, onion, and vegetables. Airports are natural monopolies; there can only be one every 50 kilometers; seaports too, exist only in deep bays. But there should be competition in air and seaport services: ground and portside handling, cargo hauling, and maintenance.
There should be no monopolies in politics as well. Political dynasts usually control the businesses in their locales: from shipping lines to stevedoring, construction supplies to filling stations, tourist resorts to restaurants. Such cornering of businesses stunt employment.
Malacañang and Congress are attempting to end endo by unnatural means. An Executive Order was signed yesterday to be followed by a law to end labor contracting and subcontracting in general. What happens then to manning companies that specialize in janitors, cleaning women, and the ubiquitous security guards? Should companies with other core businesses – say, soda and spirits, food processing, consumer goods – now hire their own salesmen and collectors, drivers and mechanics, janitors and security guards, and no longer from specialized contractors? What next – the banning of seasonal hires – like additional salesgirls in malls or bibingka cooks at Christmastime, and farmhands during planting and harvest? Certain businesses naturally go by season. In construction one usually starts with unskilled diggers; cement, gravel and sand shovellers; hollow-block layers; and reinforcement bars tiers. Then come the skilled plumbers, tilers and roofers. Lastly, the finishing carpenters and painters. Will constructors be required to hire them year-round with or without project contracts? The effect of the unnatural solutions is to discourage employment.