YOUTH activists gathered in front of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to protest the increasing prevalence of contractual employment among newly-graduates.
Student-leaders from SPARK – Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan, slammed DOLE for facilitating the dependence of new members of the workforce on “unjust jobs,” which offer low salaries, unfair working conditions and deny employees security of tenure.
“Unfortunately for the youth, the government’s neglect for their welfare does not end with their graduation,” said SPARK National Coordinator Arvin Buenaagua. “Out of the estimated 1.3 million applicants who applied in nearly 4,000 job fairs facilitated by DOLE, almost only 400,000 were able to get jobs, with a majority of them relying on contractual work in BPOs,” he added.
DOLE had recently said in a statement that 1.19 million jobs will come from the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, claiming to provide adequate jobs for more than 1 million newly-graduates who are likely to face unemployment.
“This reliance on contractual work does not address the mismatch of skill and work experienced by young workers,” said Buenaagua. “Without the promotion of a people-oriented industrialization across the nation, we will continue to rely on low-paying jobs responding to the needs of rich countries while people from our own country are tied to a life of poverty.”
Buenaagua criticized DOLE for facilitating the prevalence of contractualization, which creates low-paying jobs and diempowered workers, who are bound by contract not to organize or renegotiate for better working conditions. “While contractualization makes us more palatable to foreign investors looking to cheapen their labor costs, it binds employees to low wages, unfair work hours and hazardous working environments, as well as insecurities about their source of livelihood every three to six months.”
SPARK was joined by KAISA UP, a political organization based in the University of the Philippines, and speakers from Sanlakas partylist.
“What we need in the next administration is a pro-people agenda which contains policies which respect the rights and dignity of the youth and the working class while honoring their potential and contribution to the country’s development,” said Leody de Guzman, Sanlakas Partylist’s first nominee. “This involves removing the DOLE Department Order A, which provides loopholes for companies to exploit workers by binding them to the level of contractual employess,” he continued.
De Guzman also added that the minimum wage has yet to be raised to a level where it will serve as a sustainable income source. “We need to ensure that all workers and employees get living wages, sustenance enough for them to cope with the increasing burden of survival”.
Joanne Lim of KAISA UP emphasized the role of contractualization in limiting the prospects for advancement in the youth sector, which is even harder especially given the current state of education system.
“A great number of us enter and work to excel in college, enduring the high cost of tertiary education, in order to provide for our families and ourselves a better life,” said Lim. “Contractualization renders all our work to build a better future for ourselves and our families futile, considering that to some of us, it is a matter of life and death”