MIGRANTS SAY NO TO THE GLOBAL FORUM ON MIGRATION AND DEVELOPMENT (GFMD)

As representatives of states meet on October 29-30 for the Second Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), we call on our fellow migrants, migrant advocates and supporters to join the genuine voice of migrants as we say “No to GFMD!”

The GFMD is a device created by First World countries and international financial institutions (IFIs) like the World Bank to corner the remittances, borne by the blood, sweat and tears of migrants, and use it in funding for the “development” of poor countries. It is being used to sell neoliberal anti-poverty financing strategy that relies on the remittances of migrant workers. 

The false notion of “migration for development” that the GFMD peddles further promotes the systematic exploitation of cheap labor. It is meant to capture the remittances of migrants to ensure super profits of bank monopolies and ensure that debt-ridden economies have enough reserves to pay off debts, especially amid the raging financial crisis. The GFMD thrives on the poverty of Third World countries and forces them to institutionalize migration policies. Clearly, the agenda and framework of the GFMD reveals that what is in store is greater commodification of migrant labor, and greater exploitation and miseries of migrant workers.

The GFMD holds more significance this year because it is being hosted by the Arroyo regime in the Philippines. The Arroyo regime is the nightmare ofoverseas Filipino workers (OFWs). No other regime has bled the OFWs dry with enormous exactions from fees to charges to taxes. It has duped OFWs to part with their earnings in collusion with big business, illegal recruiters, traffickers and racketeers, and in utter disregard of the abuses and violations of migrants’ rights. It is currently riding high on the phenomenal increase in dollar remittances even as OFWs continue to reel from the falling value of their dollars.

It is time to expose that the GFMD is a predatory scheme that does not address the root causes of underdevelopment and the massive migration of poor people, much less consider the harsh conditions and legitimate issues of migrant workers. The GFMD does not promote the development of poor countries but pushes them deeper into the quagmire of poverty. 

The GFMD is a sham assembly that talks about migrants but deliberately excludes the migrants themselves. It talks about the protection of migrants but in reality violates our rights. First World countries, IFIs, banks, businesses, and governments of poor countries– which have profited immensely and unscrupulously from our hard labor– are the same institutions that are behind the GFMD. After years of neglect, abuse and exploitation, it is time that the genuine voice of the migrants be heard: No to GFMD! No to labor export policy! No to forced migration! Create jobs at home! End poverty! Defend and advance our rights!

 



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ONE IN FIVE WORKERS DOES NOT EARN ENOUGH, SEEKS MORE WORK


Data from the April 2008 Labor Force Survey (LFS) shows that one in five employed workers reported that they were seeking more work because they were not earning enough for their and their families’ needs, according to research group IBON Foundation.

The April LFS showed that the underemployment rate, or the percentage of employed workers who said they were looking for more work, grew to 6.6 million workers during the survey period, from 6.4 million in the same period last year. More significantly, the growth was in those considered ‘invisibly’ underemployed, or those who already worked 40 hours or more a week.

This means that many wage and salary workers employed in the formal sector do not earn enough for their needs. These figures could even be understated, according to IBON, since only those surveyed who reported that they were seeking more work were classified as “underemployed”.

An earlier IBON study had shown that even after a recent round of wage hikes, adjusted daily minimum wages were still not enough to cover the basic cost of living. In its April survey, IBON reported that 71% of Filipinos was not earning enough to meet their families’ basic needs.

The government survey reflects the country’s employment situation where unemployment is in an all-time high and jobs are low-paying and low in quality that workers continue to seek more work. Amid rising prices, the country’s employment situation remains the greatest challenge for the Arroyo administration.

LATEST WAGES SLIDE TO ONE-THIRD OF COST TO LIVE DECENTLY

Despite the recent round of wage hikes, daily minimum wages have actually slid to only 34% of the amount needed for decent living from 46% in January 2007, according to independent think-tank IBON Foundation.

Data from the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) show that on the national level, the average daily minimum wage, including the new increases, is just 34% of the average family living wage (FLW). The FLW is defined as the minimum amount needed for a family of six members to meet their daily food and non-food needs plus 10% allocation for savings.

In Metro Manila, the new daily minimum wage of P382 is 38% of the family living wage of P871, while in areas outside the capital the average daily wages are just 29% of the average FLW.

These figures highlight how far wages have been overtaken by price increases and how insufficient wage increases given by Regional Wage Boards are. These also underscore the urgent need for lawmakers to approve a decent legislated across-the-board wage hike as soon as Congress resumes next month.

Teachers’ Wages Deteriorate As Tuition Fees Soar

While Filipino families are still coping from escalating prices of basic commodities like rice, bread and meat products and the never-ending rise of oil prices, they are once again faced by enrollment woes this month: tuition fee hikes.

The Department of Education has already announced that the tuition fee increase in private elementary and high schools this school year may range from 2% to 10%. Such can only be expected from a deregulated and commercialized education system, with the government allowing schools to increase their fees at will, the Educators’ Forum for Development (EFD) said.

But while tuition fees in years past went up by as much as 20%, teachers’ compensation has been declining by as much based on the government’s own survey.

According to the latest Occupational Wages Survey of the Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics, the average monthly wage rates of teaching professionals in private elementary and high schools range from P12,039 to P13,906 as of 2006. What is shocking is that these wages shrank by as much as 20% compared to what teachers received in 2004. (See Table)

Average Monthly Wage Rates of Full-Time Teachers in Private Education Services, June 2004 and August 2006 (in peso)

2004    2006    % Change

General Secondary Education Teachers        14,991    12,039    (19.7)
Science and Mathematics Teachers               14,626    13,034    (10.9)
Vocational Education Teachers                     13,219    13,324    0.8
General Elementary Education Teachers        14,486    13,800   (4.7)
Science and Math Elem. Educ Teachers        15,434    13,906    (9.9)
Pre-Elementary Education Teachers              12,842    12,389    (3.5)

Source: Occupational Wages Survey, Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics

According to online job services company Jobstreet.com, the lowest salary a fresh grad teacher actually receives from private schools is a measly P7,000. Even teachers with one to four years experience are paid as low as P8,500 a month. Based on this, the lowest paid public school teacher with a basic pay of P10,933 appears to be better off.

The DepEd justifies the approval of petitions for tuition fee hikes with its so-called 70-20-10 requirements – 70% of the increase should go to the upgrading of school equipment, 20% for the acquisition of textbooks, and 10% for teachers’ salary upgrade. Yet even this paltry 10% for the faculty does not reach their hands. It is clear that teachers continue to be underpaid and their supposed share in the yearly tuition increases is only a figment of government officials’ imagination.

The EFD, an association of teachers and educators committed to social transformation, deplores the government’s abandonment of its responsibility to ensure the people’s access to education.

The EFD also takes issue with the government and private school owners’ use of teachers’ pay hike as an excuse to raise tuition fees. Teachers indeed deserve higher compensation for decent living, but school owners should provide this without charging the students exorbitant tuition and other fees.

EMPLOYERS CAN GRANT MUCH-NEEDED WAGE HIKE

A wage hike is urgent amid soaring rice and food prices, rising transport costs, and power and rate hikes, and businesses are fully able to grant the wage hike demanded by workers, according to independent research group IBON.

According to IBON research head Sonny Africa, all that employers have to do is accept a cut in their profits or tap their accumulated earnings. In these critical times for the majority of Filipinos who remain poor, Africa pointed out that businesses can even cut back on their expenses that are basically unproductive and just about competing with each other to increase market share, and divert these to their workers instead. Such expenses, he said, include extraneous marketing and promotions expenses.

As it is, the average daily basi c p ay of the country’s wage and salary earners even falls far short of the minimum wage. A wage hike will put additional pressure on employers to pay higher wages, which is aside from how the government should also work to ensure that workers are paid the proper minimum wage.

As of the middle of 2007, labor force survey data on wage and salary workers found that laborers and unskilled workers were getting paid just P153 per day, service workers and shop and market sales workers were getting P227, trades and related workers just P262, and plant and machine operators and assemblers only P287. These occupations account for 58% of all jobs in the country.

The minimum wage also falls far short of the family living wage. For instance, the minimum wage in the National Capital Region is P362 per day but the family living wage for a family with five members is P672 per day– or a shortfall of P310 per day for a family with the average of five family members.

Africa added that the real value of families’ earnings has been falling steeply since the start of the Arroyo administration. While nominal family incomes increased 19% between 2000 and 2006, according to the latest Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES), the price of goods however increased 38 percent. Soaring prices more than off-set seeming increases in family incomes and, in effect, the average annual family income of P171,924 in 2006 was worth P20,400 less than in 2000.

Uncontrollable unemployment and dismally poor wages are among the most important reasons for the increase in poverty in recent years, said Africa . In itself these are solid reasons for a wage hike of at the very least P125 as demanded by organized labor.

Inflation has drastically eroded the value of this however and P125 in 2000 is worth just P64 today, he said

STRICT REQUIREMENTS IN JPEPA BELIE GOV’T CLAIM OF HUGE LABOR MARKET FOR RP NURSES IN JAPAN

Philippine Ambassador to Japan Domingo Siazon recently made a pitch for the Senate ratification of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), saying that Japan ‘s aging population represents a large labor market for local nurses and caregivers. But according to independent think-tank IBON Foundation, stringent requirements stated in JPEPA disprove this claim.

According to the agreement, persons who engage in supplying services as nurses or certified caregivers need to fulfil strict requirements before they are allowed entry to Japan , such as obliging them to be proficient in both written and spoken Japanese so that they can take the series of tests written in Japanese.

Even assuming that Japan lifts its entry quota, the number of nurses and caregivers able to surmount the considerable language, technical and cultural barriers to working in Japan may total a few thousand at best.

Consenting to a patently unfair agreement like the JPEPA further highlights the Arroyo administration’s lack of interest in developing the domestic economy and in generating sufficient employment. It demonstrates how the supposed stop-gap measure of sending Filipinos abroad to work has become the cornerstone of the government’s development strategy.