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Manila – The Institute for Labor Studies commenced its annual iGov Talks series last May 11, via the online meeting platform Zoom, featuring ILS working papers on Social Protection.

The said activity was attended by representatives from the Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), Social Security System (SSS), and League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP).

The i-Gov Talks, hosted by Atty. Tecelyn B. Maramag from the Advocacy and Publications Division, tackled the following ILS Researches: “A Study on Public Work Programs for Better Labor Market Outcomes: The Cases of TUPAD and Cash-for-Work;” “Wage Subsidy: An Exploratory Study in the Philippines;” and “Exploring a BIG Idea: Prospects and Challenges in Implementing a Basic Income Guarantee in the Philippines.”

Authored by Mr. Cesar Mansal, the study on public work programs (PWPs) zeroed in on the assessment of the designs of some PWPs in the Philippines using the framework of the Inter-Agency Social Protection Assessment Partnership (ISPAP). Under ISPAP, PWPs are categorized into three types, namely: Public Employment Program (PEP); Employment Guarantee Scheme (EGS); and Public Investment Program (PIP)–each with defined functional objectives. The paper analyzed areas of improvement based on good practices guided by the comprehensive social protection PWP framework tool developed by ISPAP in making labor market instruments more effective. Analysis of the administrative data and relevant literature shows that the designs of the identified national PWPs, to some extent, satisfy the required key areas provided by the framework adopted by the study. However, there are features that may be enhanced to make them more effective in terms of contributing to better labor market outcomes for vulnerable workers.

The wage subsidy study presented by Ms. Miraluna S. Tacadao and Mr. Ivan Cassidy F. Villena tackled the strategy of implementing temporary wage subsidies to counteract the labor and adverse economic impacts of the pandemic as observed in many countries. Generally, the study provided inputs and options for policymakers in view of the potential implementation of a wage subsidy program. Specifically, the study sought to: (1) determine the key parameters in designing a wage subsidy; (2) examine the different country practices in implementing a wage subsidy program; and (3) endeavor the institutionalization and maintenance of wage subsidy program in the country. The research finds that while temporary wage subsidy should not be regarded as permanent solution to deter mass layoff, the program can be maximized as a strategic intervention. A wage subsidy scheme may be an indirect way of stimulating employment while also complementing labor market policies with a longer-run focus.

The third research presented was on the Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) by Ms. Maria Isabel D. Artajo, which provided a preliminary analysis of the prospects and challenges in introducing a basic income guarantee in the Philippines. It highlighted that for basic income or any other social protection scheme to be transformative, it must be complemented by redistributive fiscal reforms. It looked into taxes on property and wealth, which the paper said will be desirable from a distributional standpoint but introducing such taxes will require a big push from political constituencies. Carbon taxes also remain an underutilized option in financing social protection programs, including a potential basic income. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the research recommended that the Philippines should seriously consider the roll out of an emergency basic income guarantee program to ameliorate the adverse socio-economic impacts brought about by the public health crisis.

Insights raised during the Open Forum included a follow-up research to evaluate the Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) program, jointly implemented by the Department of Finance (DOF), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), and the Social Security System (SSS).vis-à-vis the wage subsidy programs of other countries for comparison. For the BIG study, an ex-ante simulation was proposed to be conducted to obtain a solid empirical data on the potential impact of BIG in reducing poverty rates. Pilot testing (including the selection of LGUs that can champion and sustain the pilot program) should also be considered to ascertain the real costs and benefits in implementing it. For the public works research, the preliminary evaluation made should be expanded to include the Build Build Build program of the current government.

The iGov Talks series is a dynamic platform for technical conversations among concerned government agencies on policy alternatives pertaining to good governance, employment, social protection, and other critical policy areas.