The government should focus on unemployment
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus Jimenez (The Freeman) - December 14, 2018 - 12:00am

Vividly, I now recall the nuggets of wisdom left to us in the Department of Labor and Employment by the greatest Labor Secretary the country ever had, Blas Fajardo Ople, the one and only BFO, whom we can also call as the Father of the Labor Code.

He was also the first Asian to have ever been elected as head of the International Labor Organization, based in Geneva, Switzerland. His words still ring with a lot of relevance today, when the greatest exploiter of labor is not the employers, but a combination of unemployment, joblessness, and lack of means of livelihood. An unemployed Filipino is denied participation in the socio-economic activities of the whole nation.

He is seen not just as a burden to his family, but also to his community and therefore to the whole country. His mere existence reduces the economy's per capita income, and he is without any contribution to the gross domestic product.

As of today, there are more than seven million unemployed Filipinos, and another fifteen million underemployed. And each year, more than a million Filipinos are added into the labor pool, all trying to compete for limited job openings, and only less than a quarter of this one million can be accommodated.

Thus, every year, not less than 750,000 unskilled, semi-skilled, and inexperienced, unemployable labor forces are left out and marginalized in a labor-fixated economy. And so, the question is: What is the government doing to address the annual labor surplus that escalates and escalates every year?

With due respect to Secretary Silvestre “Bebot” Bello, we have not seen any semblance of comprehensive, coherent and complete Philippine labor policies. It's not only Bello. Unlike Ople, most of the DOLE chiefs were just too shortsighted and even myopic. They do not have the vision of the great Ople.

I am sure that the DOLE underlings would react to this seemingly sweeping statement. But, if they say we are wrong, then let them show any evidence of such a strategic plan. If there is any, why is nobody articulating on it in major fora and even in Congress and in the NEDA?

If there is a need to legislate on this major component of a national development plan, why is DOLE not presenting it to Senate Labor Committee Chairman Joel Villanueva? What are the consultants of Villanueva doing about this? In the House, why is Congressman Randolph Ting of Cagayan, chairman of the House Labor Committee not showing any tangible moves to push the labor agenda into the next decade?

Do we need to remind these public officials of the strategic value of addressing the unemployment malady, which is pushing the poor people deeper and deeper into the ravine of joblessness? Poverty incidence becomes more and more rampant even with the national economy doing better than those of other countries.

The fruits of development are monopolized by the industrial taipans, the business tycoons, the economic magnates, and the moguls. The fruits of development are not trickling down to the poorest of the poor. Social injustice is still endemic and there is no dynamism in the social statures of people. More than five thousand Filipinos are leaving the country each day, many of them for good.

Unemployment is the worst kind of social injustice. It takes the whole nation to come together and do something positive and urgent in order to address it.

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