THE government should work harder to ensure that the country’s growing economy should be felt by the masses, lawmakers said on Wednesday.
A number of senators agreed that government should focus on basic problems such as unemployment so that Filipinos would be free from poverty and joblessness, especially with the recent report from the National Statistics Office that more than three million Filipinos were without jobs as of April this year.
Sen.-elect Jose Victor “JV” Ejercito Estrada said the rising unemployment rate, which in April stood at 7.5 percent, should serve as a wakeup call for the administration to focus on “real issues.”
“What good will economic numbers and perception be if the majority of Filipinos remain poor and worse, out of jobs?” Estrada asked.
“Our government has been bragging about the good economic situation of the Philippines but why does hunger and unemployment keep on rising?” he added.
Senators belonging to the administration coalition agreed that government has to work on ways to make sure that ordinary people would also feel the reported economic growth.
According to Sen. Loren Legarda, the greater challenge is translating the impressive economic growth into more job opportunities, stable employment, equitable access to quality education, health services, and other social services.
She said the government must start investing more in the countryside to support the growth of micro, small and medium enterprises, establish livelihood-training programs and provide technical and financial support to farmers and fisherfolks.
Legarda added that that the conservation of the environment should also be part of growth initiatives, since the decline of ecosystems has been determined as one of the underlying drivers of disaster risks and poverty.
Senate minority leader Alan Peter Cayetano a truly independent country should be free from hunger, poverty and despair. To attain this, he said government should be decentralized and small businesses should be given support.
Cayetano emphasized the need to involve local government units in implementing the national government’s social and economic programs to ensure that the country’s economic gains is spread across all regions and all sectors.
“In the fight against poverty, there must also be freedom from traditional governance, where decision-making is centralized in the national government. There should be rural empowerment,” he said.
Sen. Franklin Drilon, in his speech during the 115th Independence Day celebration in Kawit, Cavite, also admitted that much remains to be done on the part of the government to improve the lives of the people.
He said that, the biggest challenge is how to translate the economic gains towards the improvement of the lives of millions of Filipino people.
“I submit that much needs to be done. These programs would be more meaningful if the people in the grassroots level, the men and women on the street, would feel a remarkable improvement in their lives,” Drilon said.
Meanwhile, employees in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector urged the Aquino administration to protect their job security in light of the increased unemployment rate in the country.
The BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN) said while the BPO sector greatly contributed to economic growth, the attrition rate in contact centers is nearing 10 percent, which means that some 50,000 currently employed call center agents are likely to resign or be terminated based on the report made by the Business Process Association of the Philippines. The same report showed that the main factors that contribute to the high attrition rate include health and work quality issues, as well as night shift and round the clock schedules.
“Despite a relatively higher compensation in the BPO industry compared to other jobs, employees are subjected to a stressful work environment and consistently increasing performance targets. The lack of government’s concern to the employees reflects on the fact that there exist no BPO labor and welfare standards that companies should implement to ensure their employees’ welfare,” BIEN said in a statement.
The group lamented that since a BPO job is one of the few jobs available for young professionals, it becomes a transient career for many fresh graduates who will later seek employment abroad.
“This boils down again to the general employment situation in the country—lack of decent jobs, lack of job security, having low wages, poor occupational health and safety, among others,” BIEN added.
Jefferson Antiporda and Llanesca T. Panti