Workers blame Aquino’s policies for rise in unemployment

“Aquino is so desperate in selling his illusion of economic growth that he even resorts to absurd excuses just to cover up the worsening hunger and poverty that he has brought upon us workers and the Filipino people.” – KMU

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s claim about the country’s economic growth under his governance received a shock this week, as the rise in joblessness (7.5 percent) nearly matched the “stunning” GDP growth (7.8 percent).

The latest data from the National Statistics Office (NSO) showed the country’s unemployment rate rose to 7.5 percent this April, the highest under Aquino’s administration. National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Assistant Director General Rosemarie Edillon cited the extreme weather conditions as the main cause of the rise in unemployment. NEDA officer-in-charge (OIC) and deputy director general Emmanuel Esguerra cited the seasonality of agricultural employment and the adverse effects of natural disasters.

These excuses blaming the weather and not Aquino’s economic policies prompted jokes in social networking sites.

Workers led by Kilusang Mayo Uno said the Aquino government “ran out of excuses.” The youth, who suffer the highest unemployment incidence compared to other age groups (almost half of unemployed are 15-24 years old, almost a third are 25-34 years old), called on the Aquino administration to “stop making excuses.”

Both workers and youth, led by Anakbayan, blame the rise in the number of unemployed Filipinos in April on the government’s economic policies.

“Aquino is so desperate in selling his illusion of economic growth that he even resorts to absurd excuses just to cover up the worsening hunger and poverty that he has brought upon us workers and the Filipino people,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, chairman of KMU.

The labor leader said the jobs situation’s main problem is that the agriculture sector is plagued by landlessness of peasants. He said Aquino’s land reform program CARPER is “bogus,” and that the unresolved land problem is the reason the country’s joblessness problem continues. In previous statements, he criticized also the Aquino government’s stand against national industrialization, which was revealed when Aquino described it as passé.

Indeed, the jobs data show what the workers’ and student’s groups were saying about the impact of landlessness and lack of industrialization. Workers in the services sector remained the largest group of workers, making up more than half (52.6 percent) of the total employed. Workers in agriculture sector comprised the second largest group, accounting for 31.3 percent of the total employed. Workers in the industry sector made up 16.1 percent.

While in industrialized countries, the bigger services sector is seen as a sign of being an advanced economy, in the agriculture-based Philippines, it suggests more the extent in which Filipinos would embrace odd-jobs just to have a livelihood, various researchers have said. Among the NSO’s surveyed as employed workers in the services sector, more than a third are in wholesale and retail trade or in the repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles. These are more often considered as odd jobs.

Among the various occupation groups, laborers and unskilled workers comprised the biggest group making up one-third (32.6 percent) of the total employed persons in April 2013, the NSO also reported. But even they could not sustain their “employment.” NSO said the “employed” laborers and unskilled workers dropped by approximately 384,000.

The other bigger drop in number of employed came mostly from farmers, forestry workers and fishermen whose number decreased to approximately 4.960 million in April 2013 from 5.398 million in April 2012, or a decrease of about 438,000 workers.

Wage workers and full-time workers reportedly increased in the same period, but it failed to make up for the drop in the other previously “employed.”

Aquino policies of land concentration, cheap labor and labor export, scored

“The root of the problem is that the current and previous administrations made our economy ‘export-oriented.’ Instead of modernizing our agricultural sector to achieve ‘food independence’ and provide a base for developing our local industries, they reduced it to being a mere provider of food products for foreign supermarkets and tables,” said Vencer Crisostomo, Anakbayan national chairman.

Previous Bulatlat.com reports showed cases of landgrabbing for the start or expansion of export-oriented plantations, side by side with farmers struggling in other small-scale farms or as tenants to make ends meet in between harvests.

Agriculture used to employ the biggest number of Filipinos, but for decades, the agricultural sector has been chronically stunted, Crisostomo of Anakbayan said.

Just last week, peasants rallied in Manila to press for genuine land reform. They criticized as sham the current extended implementation of Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program begun under the administration of Noynoy’s mother.

In large plantations, meanwhile, farm workers and contract farmers share tales of low wages and low income, amid various health and safety problems at work posed by pesticides and other chemicals, long hours of work, dangerous equipment and unsafe working conditions.

Given the generally backward state of Philippine agriculture, “any effects caused by adverse weather conditions merely worsen the situation,” Crisostomo said. He said “it is wrong to blame the poor state of agriculture on weather alone.”

The youth leader noted also that under Aquino, the interrelated fields of ‘labor export’ and ‘business process outsourcing’ are aggressively being pushed while programs for agricultural modernization, genuine agrarian reform, ending of cheap agricultural imports, and sufficient funding for support services such as irrigation, are being ignored.

“The few farmers lucky enough to own the land they are tilling become more vulnerable to changes in the weather because of the lack of state support. For example, those without access to irrigation are at the mercy of nature, dependent on whether it rains regularly or not. Even if they manage to successfully harvest their crops, they then have to contend with cheaper imports being dumped in the Philippines,” said Crisostomo.

Reports also indicate that the Aquino government is abetting large multinational plantations in expanding its operations, at the expense of farmers and indigenous peoples currently farming or living on the target lands.

KMU said the record high unemployment resulted from the Aquino government’s cheap labor policy.

“Upon his boss’ orders — the big foreign and local capitalists – Aquino is intentionally worsening joblessness in the country. With higher unemployment and lesser jobs, it would be easier for capitalists to force workers to accept meager wages” Labog said.

Historically, Philippine presidents have pitted jobs against wages. Labog said Aquino is also denying their demand for a P125 wage hike using the same job vs wages rhetoric. “Now, workers are left with no wage hike and worst, no jobs. This shows that the economic growth boasted by Aquino is just an illusion. It’s just a cover-up of his anti-worker and anti-people policies,” said Labog.

The labor leader invited the public to join “tens of thousands of workers” who would protest on President Aquino’s third State of the Nation Address next month. He said they would present the real worsening conditions of workers and the Filipino people under Aquino’s administration. ()

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