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The Philippines' fisheries industry is crucial to the country's economy given the archipelagic nature of the nation. However, it continues to face challenges due to seasonal employment and precarious conditions of workers in the industry, as well as a variety of threats associated with overfishing and climate change. A critical dimension to the seasonality of work is the access to and scope of social protection benefits for the workers and their families. Using the case of workers affected by the implementation of closed fishing season in Zamboanga Peninsula Region, the purpose of this study is to describe the working conditions and determine the available social protection programs for workers in the commercial sardine fishing and canning industry. The results show that the negative effects of the fishing closures are felt by the workers in both the fishing and canning industry largely in terms of income loss. This, eventually affect their ability to support their household needs and thus, their interpersonal relationships. Aside from inadequate income, instability of work, and challenges in combining work and personal life, concerns are also found in terms of ensuring safe and healthy work environment, social insurance coverage, and workers’ involvement in multistakeholder and governance initiatives. While there are social protection measures (i.e., labor market interventions, social insurance, social assistance, and safety nets) that have been developed by the Philippine government, this study presents the challenges in terms of adequacy, gender-responsiveness and sustainability among others. Meanwhile, the employers sector likewise have varying concerns such as the retention or recruitment of workers and increasing operational costs. Given the interdependence of the pillars of decent work and how it affects workers' social protection, this research makes a strong case for government agencies in integrating measures to comprehensively address the concerns of workers, their communities, and the industry in general in the development plans and evaluation of poverty reduction measures, both in the receiving and sending localities. Despite the obstacles, there are also opportunities to open the discussions on the social insurance that these workers can be provided with and to further consolidate a number of nested and connected governance systems to address inequities and safeguard workers in the sardine industry. This will hopefully aid in reducing the vulnerability of the affected seasonal workers and the ecosystems that support them to pave the way for a more inclusive and sustainable future.

KEYWORDS: Seasonal work, fisheries, closed fishing season, social protection, decent work
RESEARCHERS: Malorie Joy O. Mones | Frances Camille G. Dumalaog

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