Youth groups hit worsening youth unemployment, harsh working conditions

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NAGA CITY (2-May-2013) – To mark Labor Day, militant youth groups denounced the persisting jobs crisis that is vastly affecting the youth sector and further worsening poverty in the country.

Groups led by Kabataan Partylist marched from España Boulevard to Liwasang Bonifacio at around 11:30 am today, carrying a large portrait featuring President Benigno Aquino III – mouth agape – in a mock Time cover for being the “top traitor of the youth.” Also in the list of “traitors” to the youth sector are Commission on Higher Education Chair Patricia Licuanan and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Sec. Rosalinda Baldoz.

“On Labor Day, the youth joins in the call of workers for just wages and better job opportunities. We denounce the Aquino administration’s failure to provide decent jobs for the youth especially for new graduates, and inaction on contractualization that has suppressed wages and instigated inhumane labor policies for workers,” said Kabataan Partylist President Terry Ridon.

Youth unemployment
The youth groups also hit the growing unemployment of the youth sector, as evidenced by the latest government figures on labor.

Conservative unemployment estimates from the latest Labor Force Survey (LFS) of the Department of Labor and Employment reveal that nearly half or 49.3 percent of the total unemployed workforce come from the youth sector. The April 2013 data from the LFS also show that the youth unemployment rate was at 16.6 percent, or more than twice the national average.
Majority of unemployed youngsters are high school graduates, while over 30 percent of the total unemployed workforce were either college graduates or had some sort of college education.

“The massive unemployment in the ranks of the youth is testament to the Aquino regime’s failure to bring change in the lives of Filipinos. Millions of our countrymen are hungrier than even, with most people remaining jobless, and those with jobs living with a barely sufficient wage,” Ridon lamented.

No reason to celebrate
Youth groups also denounced President Benigno Aquino III’s earlier statement that workers should consider May 1 as a day of “celebration” and not a day of rallies and protest actions.

“From now on, I hope we treat Labor Day as a Good Job Day. Let us end negativism. We have done a lot of positive things, and we have accomplished these not through complaining or blame-throwing but through cooperation. It is time we greet each other ‘good job,’” Aquino told labor leaders in a breakfast meeting yesterday.

“What’s there to celebrate if the plight of workers are not being addressed and is instead intensifying? What’s there to celebrate when wages continue to be at subsistence levels? What’s there to celebrate when more and more Filipino families are mired in poverty due to the government’s ineptitude? It is but just to protest on Labor Day,” Ridon said.

During the breakfast meeting, Aquino rebuffed requests to certify as urgent the security of tenure bill, a proposed law that aims to end contractualization. Aquino also announced in the said meeting that the Social Security System (SSS) is planning to increase montly contributions to 11 percent, from the current 10.4 percent to decreased the unfunded liabilities of SSS by P141 billion.

The proposed contribution rate hike will translate to about P60 additional monthly charge for workers earning P10,000 per month.

“Instead of responding to the demands of workers for better wages and job security, the president even asks workers to ‘sacrifice a little’ for the benefit of SSS. Well, Mr. President, for your information, workers in the country are not only sacrificing ‘a little,’ – they have always been victims of a system that continues to exploit labor for profit,” Ridon said.

Youth groups also decried the government’s refusal to raise minimum wage, citing several technicalities and the lack of “supervening factors.” Only Zamboanga Peninsula has increased minimum wage in time for Labor Day, raising the non-agricultural minimum wage to P280, from the current P267.

“What other supervening factor is needed to prove that minimum wages in the country can no longer keep up with the prices of basic commodities? Wages in the country have remained stagnant for decades, with no substantive increase in recent history,” Ridon pointed out.

Anti-people policies
The groups also denounced the Aquino administration’s “anti-people” policies, such as the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) scheme and the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program, the government’s dole-out program for the poor, which aggravate rather than alleviate poverty.

“The Aquino administration is seemingly ignorant of the plight of the poor: nganga na lang sa panahong kailangan ng aksyon. To add insult to the injury, Aquino is hell-bent on implementing anti-people programs like the PPP and CCT,” Ridon said.

“Under PPP, the few remaining public services shouldered by the government are being monetized and turned into a business opportunity for the local elite and foreign investors. Essentially, this scheme is robbing millions of Filipinos access to affordable public services,” Ridon said.

Meanwhile, Ridon said the CCT program proves to be an ineffective band-aid solution to poverty, as shown by the latest poverty incidence statistics.

Latest government data released by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) this week shows that for the first half of 2012, poverty incidence in the country remained “practically unchanged” from the same periods in 2006 and 2009, with 28 out of every 100 Filipinos reported to be living in poverty.

“Considering that the said data only accounts for Filipinos living under P46 per day, this only shows that crippling poverty has not changed – even worsened – despite the implementation of CCT,” Ridon said.

“The government should stop deluding itself to believing that it is paving the way for the betterment of the lives of our countrymen. Programs like PPP and CCT will not help us but would rather spell doom for all. More than ever, the youth is aghast and indignant with the regime’s anti-people agenda,” Ridon ended.

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