As the purchasing power of their wages gets eroded by a jump in prices of basic goods over the past few months, Filipinos across all socioeconomic classes have identified raising workers’ pay and curbing inflation as their most urgent concerns, according to a recent Pulse Asia survey.
Changing the Constitution, a priority of the Duterte administration, which is pushing for a federal form of government, is the least of their concerns, the poll showed.
The Pulse Asia survey of 1,200 respondents nationwide, conducted from March 23 to 28, also found that reducing poverty and creating more jobs — two issues related to low pay and rising cost of living — were the other urgent concerns.
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The survey also showed that, at this time, Filipinos were least concerned about population growth, national territorial defense and terrorism.
A majority of those belonging to Socioeconomic Class ABC — the rich and the middle class — considered inflation their top concern, followed by criminality and workers’ pay.
The top concern of Class D respondents was workers’ pay. For those belonging to Class E (the poorest), it was inflation.
Prices of consumer goods have surged and the country’s finance managers have attributed this to the faster price increases of so-called sin products.
The inflation rate in March rose to 4.3 percent, the highest since 2013 and faster than the government target of 2 to 4 percent.
The jump in prices came in the wake of the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, which lowered the personal income tax of salary earners but raised the excise tax on a host of goods and services.
Insufficient safety nets
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A labor group said wages and high prices remained top concerns of the people because of inadequate protection against profiteers, insufficient safety nets and government failure to curb contractualization work arrangements, like “endo” contracts.
Endo workers are contractual employees who get fired after five months so companies will not pay them benefits.
“If these endo workers are directly hired and become regular workers, at least they would be able to cope with inflation because they would be paid with lawfully mandated wages and benefits,” said Alan Tanjusay, spokesperson for the Associated Labor Unions–Trade Union Congress of the Philippines.
The daily minimum wage in Metro Manila ranges from P475 to P512. The floor pay ranges from P243 to P380 in Luzon outside the metropolis; P245 to P366 in the Visayas; and P255 to P340 in Mindanao.
“Wages have been devalued for the past decade,” Julius Cainglet of Federation of Free Workers said.
“The insignificant increase in the regional minimum wages and the small increase in the take-home pay from the reduced personal income tax would not be enough to cover the increase in prices of basic commodities, especially as a direct or indirect result of the TRAIN law,” he added.
A Filipino needed at least P1,813 while a family of five needed at least P9,064 monthly to meet basic food and nonfood needs in 2015.
Malacañang said on Tuesday that President Rodrigo Duterte shared the Filipinos’ most urgent concerns.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the President wanted to give Filipinos a more comfortable life and was working toward this.
Cut poverty, more jobs
Poverty incidence and unemployment rates have declined, but these are not enough for Filipinos, who still see the need to reduce poverty and to create more jobs.
One in five Filipinos was poor in 2015—a poverty incidence of 21.6 percent, down from 25.2 percent in 2012, according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Despite the decrease, the poverty incidence translated to 21.93 million Filipinos who couldn’t afford to buy basic food and nonfood items.
Unemployment rate in January fell to a decade-low 5.3 percent (2.3 million people) from last year’s 6.6 percent (2.8 million).
The underemployment rate, however, rose to 18 percent (7.4 million) in January from 16.3 percent (6.4 million) last year.
Because of low pay and lack of jobs in the country, many Filipinos still leave to work abroad.
Results of the Pulse Asia survey also indicated that the Duterte administration scored majority approval ratings, ranging from 53 percent to 86 percent, in handling 11 of 12 selected national issues.
The administration, however, got a 39-percent approval rating in controlling inflation.
It got 86 percent in responding to the needs of those affected by calamities and 84 percent in protecting the welfare of overseas Filipino workers. —REPORTS FROM INQUIRER RESEARCH, TINA G. SANTOS AND LEILA B. SALAVERRIA / Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:26 AM April 25, 2018
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