THERE are two myths about eliminating poverty in the Philippines that need to be exposed, opposed and disposed of: college degrees and corrupt politicians.
To most Filipinos, this is historical fact, a no-brainer.
Filipino parents believe that a college education is the vehicle for getting the family out of poverty, and so, therefore, it is not unusual for parents to sell or mortgage real estate properties, take out loans, or work overseas to pay for the cost of acquiring a college degree for the son or daughter. In return, the college graduate is expected to get a decent, well-paying job.
In some cases, the parents choose the course for the kid based on their perception of which occupation is in demand both at home and overseas. That has largely caused the rise or fall in enrolments for certain courses, such as Nursing and other health-related courses, IT and culinary/hospitality courses.
Until 2007, enrolment in the Medical and Allied courses exhibited an upward trend: from 549,658 in 2005 to a high of 609,659 in 2006, gradually tapering off in the years that followed to the lowest level of 277,904 in the current academic year (2015-2016).
Three academic programs on the other hand – IT Related Discipline, Service Trades (which includes Tourism/Hospitality courses) and Maritime (for Seafarers) showed increased enrolment numbers over the same period:
Graduates from the three courses easily find good-paying jobs, domestic or overseas: IT Related – software programmers, analysts, animators, web developers; Maritime – seafarers and Service and Trades – chefs, cooks, entry and semi-skilled level staff, as well as hospitality managers.
In addition, these occupations are consistently listed in the shortage list or in-demand occupations in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. A graduate of any of the three courses who complete at least a year of employment gets a good shot at becoming a permanent resident of Canada. A job offer from an employer in Australia, Canada and New Zealand ensures an invitation to apply for permanent residency in any of these three countries with permanent migration programs.
Corrupted presidential statement
During his inaugural speech in June 2010, President BS Aquino repeated his campaign claim and pledged to implement the slogan: “Korapsyon ang problema, kahirapan ang resulta (Corruption is the problem; it results in poverty.”
The shorter version in Taglish conveys the simple truth that Aquino promised to solve: “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.”
When asked how he would deliver on his promise, Aquino’s answers were “straight-to-the point.” He promised to create “better high-paying jobs” and an environment where investors and businesses can thrive. He also specified education as a solution.”
College diploma and food on the table
For the first two years of the PNoy administration where college enrolment and graduate numbers increased, the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) Report in 2012 showed that “the estimated number of extremely poor families has remained steady at around 1.61 million.”
The NSCB report also explained that while “the poverty incidence estimate for 2012 is slightly lower than the 2009 and 2006 poverty incidence figures, which were estimated at 20.5 and 21.0 percent, respectively…these differences are not statistically significant.”
In short, poverty remained the same despite the increased number of college graduates in all academic disciplines: 3,262,815 in 2015-2016, compared with the total college enrolment of 2,770,965 in 2010.
Better paying jobs
A search for the top ten (10) “Hot Jobs” in the Philippines on PhilJobs.net – the official, government job portal – shows some better paying jobs: call center agents (234 vacancies listed); accounting clerk (39); accounting staff (38); civil engineers (33).
The total number of vacancies listed on the search date (Nov. 28, 2015, 2:30 p.m.) was only 812.
An advisory was also issued, stating that, “All posted announcements has expired (sic). There are no new announcements at the moment.”
The other occupations on the government job portal? Cashiers, sales clerks, service crew, merchandisers, production/factory workers and salesmen – all of which do not require a college degree.
There were only 11 job openings for nurses; one is for a head nurse.
On the other hand, opportunities for employment and permanent residency registered nurses – an occupation that is better-paid overseas – is wide open in the United States, the UK, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – http://www.poea.gov.ph/cgi-bin/JobVacancies/PosJobsResult.asp
On March 3, 2012, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz advised “some 100,000 unemployed Filipino nurses in the country to try their luck in the booming business process outsourcing industry, or call centers, which she said had “non-traditional” health-related aspects.”
The Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry is expected to surpass foreign exchange earnings (remittances) of OFWs in 2017.
Unless the homegrown jihadists respond to the ISIS call to attack civilian targets in the Philippines as the Islamists did in France, the relatively safe business operations environment in the Philippines (contrasted with those in Europe and lately, the threats in the United States) should even accelerate growth of the BPOs.
Earlier this year, Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima announced that “BPO revenues were on track to eclipsing remittances as the economy’s main source of strength. By 2017, the BPO industry is expected to rake in $28.9 billion from a projected $21.2 billion” in 2015.
Corruption and politicians
A national survey conducted by Ibon Foundation in May this year – the final year of the BS Aquino Administration – showed that “seven out of 10 respondents (or about 67 percent) see themselves as poor. This translates to about 67 million poor Filipinos.”
IBON figures used the government statistics from the Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) for 2012. In fact, poverty remains massive despite the government’s P78-billion 4Ps, or the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program budget for 2015.
If poverty is caused by corrupt politicians – and the official figures cited above confirm the continuing existence of poverty – it is, likewise, a no-brainer to assume that the presidential promise itself has been corrupted.