Disaffected youth in the Philippines?



It is said that the main source of recruitment for the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and other terrorist and not necessarily Muslim groups is the disaffected youth. It’s not too difficult to see the attraction to a young, poor immigrant with scant education and without any real prospects in joining up with a band of people who travel around in armored vehicles, who do not follow any rules, who allow you to shoot other people, foster camaraderie and pay your expenses whilst doing so. It’s all a bit like a real-life video game. But it is clearly very wrong behavior.

Teenagers and young people have always been, to some degree, disaffected; it’s easy to remember the times when I didn’t really want to follow parental or even societal rules. It’s all part of growing up but, as time goes on, the realization dawns that the “rules” have to be accepted and in most part are not too onerous. But that was some years ago in an advanced economy where there were lots of jobs and opportunity and was a welfare state, just in case things went wrong.

In today’s world people have to take greater responsibility for their lives than was the case 20 or 30 years ago. In China, the transition from the cradle to grave state support, to an emerging more open economy, forces a new sense of responsibility. If the state provides all then you really don’t have to think too much or be too creative or self-sufficient. That said, the state in the case of China will not allow you to just drop out; it will force you to conform. It’s not too easy to adapt to this newfound responsibility in ways that people in the advanced economies have done for many years.

The Philippines has never really had any state support for its citizens. It works on the basis of paternalism. Thus, those without paternal cover are forced to be creative and self-sufficient, and there are a lot of them, and it is this need that drives the lucky ones to find work overseas.

But, alas, there are still lots with neither paternal cover, jobs overseas or decent work here in the Philippines but nevertheless with responsibilities to their families, and even though it gets very hard to honor these familial responsibilities, they must. Filipino youth are probably no more or less disaffected than youth from anywhere else but here in general, just to drop out is not an option, there is no safety net. They must often feel quite desperate.

But not all youth are desperate nor do they have to take responsibility. There are those relatively few in number whose every wish is satisfied: they have the latest electronic gizmos, cars of their own and yayas to even help them put on their clothes, and frequently they just don’t feel the need to follow any rules because parental influence is such that they won’t be penalized for breaking them or simply not conforming. But to the youth of the masa, those lifestyles are just unachievable dreams, so “no point thinking about that.”

The Philippines is a nation where a very high proportion, nearly 20 percent, of the population is in the 15- to 24-year-old age group (UK 12 percent, China 14 percent). The new K-to-12 education policy is to prepare youth for entrepreneurship and skilled employment, but that is a waste of time effort and money if there are no opportunities at the end of it other than a paternalistic relationship or a job as a maid in Singapore or working on a construction site in Oman or on a six-month contract which will not be renewed in order to avoid the necessity of giving proper employment benefits. Albeit of necessity, the high sense of responsibility of the great majority of Filipino youth has tremendous potential to propel the nation forward economically if only it can be captured and used to the benefit of all.

To do this the youth need to see and believe that real opportunity is available, and at the moment that is a difficult thing to see. In exchange for learning, doing things well and doing the right thing, there should be achievable rewards and “ladders of progression” so that anybody can succeed. But this will not happen if “those few who control all” continue to fail to accept that to open up the economy to provide real opportunity and to loosen their stranglehold is not just good for everybody, it is most of all good for them— they will allow the creation of more wealth and, through that, eventually be able to drive around in their Maserati’s without fear of damaging them by hitting potholes in the road!

Mike can be contacted at mawootton@gmail.com.


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1 Comment

  1. the real problem is irresponsible parenthood, couples procreating for the sake of enjoyment and not thinking of the future of the child.

    what is needed is a blunt education that a baby is a lifelong responsibility and not a toy nor a source of entertainment, and to tell the priest and bishops to stay out of the bedroom.