Labor year-ender: Incomes and jobs crisis pummeled workers in 2022 | Inquirer Opinion

Labor year-ender: Incomes and jobs crisis pummeled workers in 2022

/ 05:00 AM December 28, 2022

Despite the economy sustaining its recovery from the recession induced by the pandemic, workers nonetheless faced a worsening incomes and jobs crisis in 2022. Thus, while small businesses were slowly recuperating, formal and informal workers continued bleeding from wage and income erosion, job losses, and a fall in employment quality.

Inflation ratcheted up for the whole year, from 3 percent in January to 8 percent in November. No doubt prices rose even more in December. By October, the 7.7 percent inflation had cut P76 off the P570 minimum wage of workers in Metro Manila since the latest wage order was implemented on June 4. This meant that the P33 minimum wage increase in June had effectively been eradicated by year-end. Inflation was even worse outside Metro Manila. This led to the clamor from the labor movement by the last quarter for a new salary hike.


Partido Manggagawa called for a P100 nationwide across-the-board legislated increase, while the labor group Kapatiran ng mga Unyon at Samahang Manggagawa filed a petition for a P100 minimum wage hike in the NCR early this month. The Employers Confederation of the Philippines opposed a wage hike using the disingenuous argument that MSMEs cannot afford it. Despite runaway inflation, the government played deaf to the demand and stuck to the myth that there was no supervening condition that existed to warrant a new round of wage hikes.

The government trumpeted the return of employment figures to pre-pandemic levels. By October, unemployment was at 4.5 percent, exactly the same rate in October 2019 before COVID-19 struck. But while the number of jobs may have returned, the quality of jobs worsened. More people were working part-time instead of full-time. Underemployment—or the people wanting more hours of work—jumped from 13 percent in October 2019 or 5.62 million Filipinos to 14.2 percent in October 2022 or 6.67 million. This translates to more than a million Filipinos working as casual, contractual, or informal in 2022, or a rise of 19 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels of underemployment.


As part-time employees working as casual, contractual, or informal, they would be suffering from lower remuneration, not enough benefits, less job security, lack of social security, and unsafe working conditions. In other words, these employed but vulnerable workers in the post-pandemic context are still harmed by decent work deficits. More Filipinos are back to work but in bad jobs.

A reflection of this phenomenon is revealed in the plight of delivery riders. No doubt, there were more of them as essential workers during the pandemic. But an upsurge of protests among delivery riders expresses the decent work deficits of Filipinos working as independent contractors rather than as full-time regular employees. Almost all of these protests originated from grievances over steep declines in incomes as the apps arbitrarily cut their “commissions” while the cost of fuel rose continuously. This contradiction exposes the risks of app-based work where part of the business costs has been passed on to so-called freelancers while platforms continue to exercise control over their work. This year, Grab riders in General Santos, Cebu, and Pampanga, together with Grab cyclists in Metro Manila, all held mass actions to highlight their demands. In a pioneering initiative, the Iloilo Grab Riders Union was formed in November, which will test the employee-employment relationship between workers and the apps.

The hemorrhage of jobs continues. In September, some 4,000 workers across the five factories of the Sports City group of companies in the Mactan Economic Zone were laid off, arguably the biggest mass termination this year. That the mother of all layoffs at Sports City was not a one-time, big-time event was confirmed by the industry association Confederation of Wearable Exporters of the Philippines, which stated in October that up to 4 percent of the 270,000 apparel workers have been laid off this year.

Workers in export zones such as garment and electronics are especially at risk due to global supply chain disruptions. With the threat of a government dipping its fingers on their pension funds and prospects of a global recession ever higher, Filipino workers should brace for bad rather than good tidings next year.

Rene Magtubo,
national chair,
Partido Manggagawa,
[email protected]
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