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Collect your own statistics

/ 05:05 AM October 12, 2019

October of every year being National Statistics Month, it was very timely for the national organization Filipino Nurses United (FNU) to make the shocking revelation this week that the current monthly take-home pay of nurses is only P18,000 to P21,000 in public hospitals, and an even lower P8,000 to P12,000 in private hospitals (https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1175370/group-seeks-p30000-basic-pay-for-nurses).

The Supreme Court reacted immediately, ruling that government nurses are entitled by law to a minimum monthly salary of up to P30,531. But, at the same time, it pointed out that it cannot compel Congress—or even the executive branch, presumably—to implement the salary prescribed by the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002 (“SC says nurses entitled to P30,000 basic pay,” Inquirer, 10/10/19).

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Statistics on wages are rare. I don’t know of any public source of data on actually-paid wages—as distinct from legally-prescribed wages—for any occupation, unless the data are collected and published by a private institution. I strongly recommend that trade unions and other occupational groups emulate FNU, and gather and publicize data on their own wages, to use in advocacy for their interests.

Wage data suppression. I used to think, mistakenly, that the government was not collecting data on wages (“Is there any progress in real wages?” 5/21/15). Then I learned that wage data have been collected in the government’s quarterly Labor Force Survey (LFS) for years. But these data have been, and are still being, suppressed from publication.

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The suppression of LFS wage data was disclosed on Feb. 21, 2018, by Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua, guest speaker at a dinner of the Foundation for Economic Freedom, an association of economists. The apparent reason for the continuing suppression is an unwillingness to admit that there has been prolonged stagnation in real wages, despite decades of growth in Gross National Income and the productivity of labor (see my “Stagnation of real wages,” Opinion, 3/3/18).

The need for wage targeting. Since the government makes projections of the annual inflation rate, I think it is reasonable for it to target at least an equal rate of increase in the average money wage. That would simply maintain the real income of the average worker. Not to target for any increase would, implicitly, be expecting the average worker’s real income to fall.

Better yet, the government should target the average wage to increase at the same rate as the real per capita Gross National Income. That would simply be expecting the economic growth to be equally shared with labor by the owners/controllers of capital, land, technology and other factors of production. To target for anything less would, implicitly, be expecting to widen the gap between labor and the other factors.

If there is to be wage targeting, naturally there should be wage monitoring also. Not monitoring wages, or monitoring it only secretly and not reporting it, is a sign of not caring for the interests of labor.

Private parties should get into the act of generating statistics. National Statistics Month is not only for the government, but for all, including nonstatisticians.

The official food threshold, as calculated by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, is very stingy. What does Catholic Relief Services think it should be?

The official poverty line has no allowance for minimal housing. What does Gawad Kalinga think it should be?

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If something counts, count it. If you treasure it, measure it.

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TAGS: Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua, Labor Force Survey, National Statistics Month, Philippine Nursing Act of 2002
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