Filipino workers face a broad range of potential gains and risks as the ASEAN integration officially takes off this year, according to a research presented in 2014 during the 3rd DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) Research Conference on Decent Work.
Chief Labor and Employment Officer (LEO) Brenalyn Peji said in her research “DOLE Roadmap to ASEAN Integration in 2015” that at least 3 million additional jobs can be created under the increasing regional economic integration, which she cited as a boon mostly to Filipino professionals and skilled workers.
Among the priority sectors in which most jobs will be created in the Southeast Asian region are agro-based products, fisheries, wood-based products, electronics and tourism.
The acceleration in jobs generation will be mainly triggered by increased market access for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which is crucial to their stronger growth and enhanced competitiveness, Peji added in her paper.
The research also anticipates labor productivity to increase among the Filipino workers, potentially translating into gains in their income.
Job opportunities likely unequal, vulnerable
Though the demand for jobs will shoot up by millions starting this year, the study shows the opportunities will likely be distributed unequally, with 41% increase anticipated for high-skill jobs; 22% for medium-skill jobs; and 24% for low-skill jobs.
The paper further indicates that a third of the jobs to be generated for the workers of the region may also fall under vulnerable employment, or the unpaid family and own-account forms of employment.
Filipino women, as one of the vulnerable sectors, will likely face tougher job-related barriers, such as discrimination. Without adequate social protection schemes, the study notes, the female workers can hardly cope with the those barriers.
The major industries at risk of losing in the ASEAN integration include agribusiness, construction, furniture and manufacturing. Meanwhile, of the priority sectors enumerated in the paper, agro-based products, fisheries, and textiles and apparels are among those which may incur greater losses in the face of more intense competition.
The research recommended key government recommendations on enhancing Filipino workers’ employability and ensuring their social and rights protection.
Employability enhancement includes Job readiness measures such as the K-12 educational system, training-for-work scholarship, and stronger TVET programs on in-demand skills and occupations. Measures on job matching and placement include school-to-work transition schemes, labor market signalling, career guidance advocacy and PESO institutionalization. Labor mobility interventions include a review of ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangements (MRAs) and Qualifications Reference Framework (AQRF).
Social protection enhancement points to human resource-driven and ladderized productivity training to improve SME competitiveness. Philippine Labor Market Test review, Skilled Occupational Shortage List development, HRD Convergence Program in the sugarcane industry, and enhanced social protection framework and strategy are strategies cited to further protect workers.
The strict observance of core labor standards under the area of workers’ rights protection was also identified in the paper as an intervention. Further, Peji called for the full implementation of the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of Right of Migrant Workers, the Labor Law Compliance System, and the Single-Entry Approach or SEnA.
RONELL J. DELERIO