Manila – The latest installment of the Institute for Labor Studies’ (ILS) “Revive & Thrive” COVID-19 webinar series discussed in detail the concept of Universal Basic Income (UBI) during a StreamYard broadcast live via the official ILS Facebook page last October 14.
The webinar titled “In Pursuit of a Just Society: Introducing Wage Subsidies and Basic Income Guarantees in the Philippines” is the finale presentation under the theme “Advancing Workers’ Rights and Welfare Through Human-centered Systems and Institutions.” It aimed to provide a venue to discuss the prospects of a transformative social protection that will not only become a pathway to economic recovery but will also address deep inequalities toward building a just and cohesive society.
Ivan Cassidy F. Villena, Senior LEO from the Labor and Social Relations Research Division (LSRRD) opened the program with a brief introduction on UBI.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Assistant Secretary Alex V. Avila gave the opening remarks for the program and acknowledged that the ILS webinar on UBI and wage subsidy is a necessary step to lay down the goal of such experimentation towards a better understanding of development ideas, noting that if funded and implemented, the basic objective converges on the need to provide financial relief and toward saving jobs to retains one’s dignity during this time of financial challenges. He lauded the efforts of ILS researchers in being able to continuously provide substantial and evidence-based policy recommendations, which will serve as the framework for current and future legislations.
The three-person panel was composed of Ms. Miraluna S. Tacadao, Acting Chief of the LSRRD, Ms. Maria Isabel D. Artajo, Chief LEO of the Workers Welfare Research Division (WWRD), and Mr. JC Punongbayan, PhD candidate and teaching fellow at the University of the Philippines School of Economics. The post presentation plenary was moderated by Ronell J. Delerio, Acting Supervising LEO from WWRD.
Ms. Tacadao’s presentation titled, “Exploring Wage and Income Support for Employment in the Philippines,” gave everyone an overview of wage subsidy and a rundown of existing wage subsidy programs in the world. Given the existing labor and socio-economic issues that are further magnified by the pandemic, her presentation sought to answer policy questions on the areas of eligibility, conditions, target recipient, subsidy amount, tenure, and fund management for the program. She emphasized that wage subsidy should be beyond job retention and must be made part of a broader set of policies in response to the crisis and as a complementary measure to other interventions in the form of a “demand-side” program.
For her presentation, Ms. Artajo advocated for the Basic Income Guarantee through her topic “From ‘Ayuda’ to the BIG Idea: Exploring the Basic Income Guarantee in the Philippines.” She discussed what Basic Income Guarantee is and its role and priorities within the Social Protection framework. She also gave a historical view on the evolution of social protection, emphasizing that ‘the rights that workers are enjoying today were once radical ideas that had to be fought and lobby for.’ She also added that the concept of a basic income guarantee is now gaining increasing support citing Pope Francis advocating for the said issue during his Easter Letter.” Further, she cited values such as social justice, dignity, freedom, and social solidarity as fundamental moral and ethical reasons for the establishment of a Basic Income Guarantee.
Ms. Artajo further discussed that the best model, which the country could adapt would be a quasi-universal scheme, without compromising the overall design reducing poverty and inequality sustainably, with a guarantee that should not involve the dismantling of public social services and one that is also compatible with the principles of the social protection floor.
Mr. Punongbayan’s presentation titled “Filipinos’ Economic Dgnity Amid COVID-19” showed detailed graphic representations of the country’s fiscal performance in terms of Gross Domestic Product, average income, employment rate, labor force participation, underemployment and overall job loss by industry during the period starting January 2020 until the ease of the Enhanced Community Quarantine.
He highlighted this observation based on a study capturing a scenario where everyone is on the receiving end of a 10% decrease in their income, and where the number of poor Filipinos can increase by 5.5 million. Mr. Punongbayan added that, “the findings suggest that economic recovery from a pandemic ultimately requires restoring consumer confidence by addressing the root health concerns themselves.”
His presentation included evidence to show that UBI is possible and is in alignment with the government’s thrust for “universal and transformative social protection for all Filipinos.” Mathematically, he said that the government can afford UBI and wage subsidy, which would only amount to 2% of the 2019 National Income. He also cited research by the US National Bureau of Economic Research, which said that If the lockdown lasts longer, or should there be a “second wave,” an extension of enhanced unemployment benefits will likely be necessary for consumption spending to recover quickly. It is within this framework that he sees the passage of the 2021 budget that would prioritize health, economic and labor problems as a critical step in the right direction for UBI realization, and the start of an empowered policy shift that will uplift the economic dignity of Filipinos.
In her closing remarks, ILS Executive Director Ahmma Charisma Lobrin-Satumba underlined that social policies should be designed based on the Filipino time-honored value of “Bayanihan,” which is not only an expression of social solidarity but also a form of recognition of Filipino workers’ resiliency and productivity. She concluded with an affirmation that it is timely to discuss basic income guarantee and wage subsidy as policy alternatives for the country.
Significantly, this is also among the first webinars of the Institute that has Filipino Sign Language inset and closed captioning components to engage Hard-of-Hearing (HOH) and deaf participants.
To view the recorded webinar with closed captioning and Filipino Sign Language features, please go to this link: