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This research examines just transition pathways and decent work outcomes for waste workers amid the circular economy and modernization shifts in the Philippines' waste sector. Using a qualitative study design and framework approach, researchers interviewed local government unit (LGU) officials, materials recovery facility (MRF) managers, and formal and informal waste workers across six sites pioneering zero waste programs and undergoing various sector transitions. Using the International Labour Organization’s Just Transition Guidelines as the analytical framework, findings reveal decent work deficits across employment stability, social protection, skills training, and occupational health and safety dimensions. While transitioning to more sustainable waste practices expanded jobs, issues like contractual work arrangements, lack of hazard pay and insurance, unsafe working conditions, and narrow skills-building prevailed.

Further, social dialogue enabling worker participation in waste planning was absent. In response, the study recommends legislating protections, formalizing employment, expanding social assistance, and instituting inclusion mechanisms to uphold rights and facilitate empowering transitions. Realizing these integrated interventions can directly improve incomes, upgrade skills, expand protections, and give workers a greater voice amid circular economy disruptions. The research indicates that managing labor impacts and upholding decent work is imperative for equitable, worker-inclusive sustainability transitions, breaking cycles of poverty and precarity in the waste sector.

Keywords: Just transition, waste worker, circular economy, decent work, sustainability
RESEARCHERS: Principal Author: Athena Mari E. Son | Contributors: Arianne Ishreen C. Bucar | Bernard Paul M. Mangulabnan | Loren Art S. Cayabyab

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