How to give workers a job
If President Marcos Jr. wants to truly bring the Philippines into the modern world, there are some very radical things he must do, things there’s been much opposition to in the past by those unwilling to understand where the world is heading. I’ve raised these issues many times before so I apologize for the repetition, but with a new government and hopefully, a new mindset, maybe decision-makers will listen and make these necessary changes — if we want to truly capture foreign investors. Not just talk as though we do. Let me concentrate on three things today.
The first is education, because that’s the base where the rest comes from. That education needs to be based on the ones where we are now last in the world; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) — the rest is peripheral. It’s the base upon which the metaverse world is being built. Students showing early aptitude in these and those others that still require the intellect of a human brain should be brought into schools designed for them. The others can continue in a more traditional curriculum that prepares them for the more menial, and more labor-oriented tasks, such as farming, hospitality services, etc.—the few industries that will still remain in need of physical human beings in the metaverse world.
The next is geography. It is irrelevant in a metaverse world. There are many jobs that are purely intellectual ones where your physical presence is not required, but your mind is. Your mind is now in the clouds. Where you are no longer matters. What you do does. COVID has accelerated us into a hybrid workplace. The past two years have proven that people can do an equally proficient job from home as they did in the office. More so even. So why would you force them back to the office? Let businesses decide what’s best for their employees.
The laws creating Peza and offering incentives need to be rethought. In the meantime, companies want to continue to avail of incentives, but work from home can apply to the BOI, which can give those incentives. The travails of numerous hours of commute can be reduced, leaving more time for productive endeavors. Yes, the city center empties. Restaurants and coffee shops suffer, as do jeepney and tricycle drivers, and much else. But that’s what modern progress is all about: change. We don’t have horse-drawn carriages anymore. We don’t have 100 people sitting on a production line in a factory, robots now reign. Life and living have changed. How we treat employment and job opportunities must change too.
But it’s labor where the real change must occur. The six-month probation no longer makes sense. It never really did. The solution, as I’ve ever so often argued, is that when you get a job, all benefits, pension, SSS, PhilHealth insurance, Pag-Ibig — start on Day One, and transfer with you as you change jobs. The concerns of contractualization disappear — you’re fully protected from unscrupulous five-month hire, then fire. There’s no gain to doing so.
Then, there’s security of tenure. Managers don’t indiscriminately fire for no valid reason. It’s a pain in the neck to find new people. You fire because someone can’t do the job despite repeated warnings. Protecting individual workers from firing does only one thing, it raises the level of incompetence and of uncompetitiveness of a country. The Constitution says on security of tenure: “The State affirms labor as a primary social economic force. It shall protect the rights of workers and promote their welfare.” This has been interpreted as mandating security of tenure. But those rights are better protected by creating an environment that attracts jobs — creating investors. So the Labor Code needs to be changed. It says “In cases of regular employment, the employer shall not terminate the services of an employee except for a just cause or when authorized by this Title.” That clause is protecting workers from getting a job.
There’s another thing the oppositors might want to consider: there’s no loss of job. One (unproductive) person has lost a job, another (productive) person has gained a job. So, what are oppositors protecting? Inefficiency?
I’ve raised all this before and I can’t, for the life of me, understand why no one who could affect these changes hasn’t responded. And why none of the opposition has given me logical disputes I can argue. I can only assume this column doesn’t get sufficiently widely read. But why haven’t some readers with influence supported me and passed it on?
Freedom to freely choose your workforce and where it works leads to improved productivity. No other country, except North Korea, has such draconian laws. That must, surely, tell you it’s wrong. Or is everyone else wrong, except us? Will we join the modern world or remain trailing along behind?
I think these two changes would dramatically, to the tune of millions of new jobs, improve the work environment in the Philippines.
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