One thing underscored as the nation retackles the Marcos dictatorship is its legacy of neoliberal policies which, far beyond even its huge corruption or ammassed debt, still impacts on the Filipino people’s lives and livelihoods today. Subsequent administrations’ adherence to these policies has kept the Philippine economy backward and underdeveloped while serving the needs of the most developed countries especially today as they cope with their own economic crises. The poverty, joblessness and lack of fundamental services under neoliberal policies continues to challenge the achievement of Filipinos’ economic, social and cultural rights.
The Philippine economy grew at its fastest in 35 years over the 2011-2015 period and for this was hailed “Asia’s next economic miracle” by the World Economic Forum and World Bank. Yet despite five years of rapid economic growth the majority of Filipinos still face poverty and an unprecedented jobs crisis, although the wealth and profits of a few more than doubled. This trend looks set to continue under the new administration whose socioeconomic agenda unfortunately upholds the same policies as that of its predecessors.
The Filipino people’s right to self determination remains compromised. Free trade agreements greatly undermine the country’s policy space for national development. Trade and investment liberalization policies since the 1980s have caused production to collapse resulting in an economy that continues to fail to generate decent work, livelihoods and means of subsistence for millions of Filipinos. The share of manufacturing in gross domestic product (GDP) has fallen from 27.6% of GDP in 1980 to 23.2% in 2015, or as small a share of the economy as in the 1950s. The share of agriculture has also fallen over the same period from 23.5% to 9.5%, which is the smallest in the country’s history.
The economy remains controlled by a few. The wealth of the 10 richest Filipinos grew 220% from 2010 to 2015, the net icome of the top 1,000 corporations grew 41% from 2010 to 2014. But the Filipino majority remain poor with the real value of the average daily basic pay of wage and salary workers rising just 5.3% between 2010 and 2015, and of the National Capital Region (NCR) minimum wage by just 6.5% over the same period. Government’s 48 priority mining projects seek to exploit an estimated US$840 billion-US$1 trillion worth of mainly copper, gold, nickel, iron, chromite and aluminum resources. The majority of these are in identified ancestral lands of indigenous peoples in Northern Luzon, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Northern Mindanao and Southern Mindanao regions.
The right to work remains violated. The unprecedented jobs crisis sees 4.3 million unemployed and 7.2 million underemployed Filipinos as per IBON estimates. Six of ten employed Filipinos are either non-regular and agency-hired workers, in private households, self-employed, own-account workers, or in unpaid family work. Education is no longer a guarantee for employment: 56% of the unemployed have high school and college degrees. In 2015, the 4,994 Filipinos who found employment abroad exceeded the 1,775 new jobs created in the domestic economy.
Working Filipinos’ right to just and favorable work conditions remain denied. As of 2013 almost half of wage and salary workers earned below the minimum wage, 25% were able to receive it, and only 29% received higher than the minimum wage. The practice of hiring workers for only five months then terminating them before they legally become regular workers accorded mandated benefits is common. Minimum wages are in any case insufficient to maintain a minimum level of decent living: the current mandated daily minimum wage in the NCR of P481 as of June 2016 is just 44% of the P1,096 daily living wage for a family with six members. Many workers are in irregular and vulnerable work arrangements. The rural poor meanwhile suffer backward agricultural systems and feudal relations: 52% of all farmers in the country covering 51% of total farm area remain under tenurial arrangements. Landlords still own more than 80% of agricultural land, some 2.4 million farms rely on hand tools, plows and carabaos, and only 30% of the total farm area is irrigated.
Workers continue to experience severe labor repression when they try to uphold their rights. This, despite the right to unionize being guaranteed under law. From 2010 to June 2016, there were at least 780 monitored incidents of violations of workers’ rights affecting at least 20,000 workers. There is accumulating firm-level evidence of increasing contractualization and agency-hiring which hinder the right to unionize.
Social security and state health insurance is available mainly to salaried employees. Millions of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable are effectively beyond public social insurance or safety nets. A large share of Filipino workers are in the informal economy or, if they are in the formal sector, hired as casual or contractual labor. Almost four of ten Filipino workers are in own-account or unpaid family work. There are no unemployment benefits. Almost 97% of elderly Filipinos are either not covered or receive pensions below a reasonable poverty threshold.
There is little or no protection or assistance for Filipino families. Poverty drives many children to leave school for work. In 2014, some 2.2 million children aged 5-17 were working to augment family income or even to fend for themselves. Three of ten million children were employed in psychologically and physically hazardous conditions. More than 2 million children live in the streets. At least one of four women and three of ten children account for the country’s poor. The overseas worker phenomenon sees millions of Filipino children left behind by their parents who seek employment abroad.
The right to adequate standard of living remains unrealized. Official reported poverty incidence has seemingly improved but this is mainly due to consecutive changes in poverty methodologies that lowered the poverty threshold. IBON estimates almost 7 of 10 Filipinos struggling to survive on less than US$3.0 per day. These are the country’s farmers, fisherfolk, workers, small-scale traders, vendors, domestic workers, and other informal sector workers. The poorest families have the least access to basic needs such as safe drinking water, electricity and sanitary toilets.
The people are food insecure. Women and children, the country’s most vulnerable sectors, suffer increasing hunger: From 2014-2015, the incidence of stunted under-5 children increased from 30.3% to 33.3.4% and malnourished under-5 children increased from 20.0% to 21.5%.. About 46% of all Filipino households are incapable of providing their children an adequate and nutritional diet.
Right to housing remains elusive. The most recent available government data show that 37.2% of all Filipinos continue to live in houses built with weak materials. Meanwhile, the number of families in urban poor communities have increased by more than 60% in urban centers nationwide in the decade since 2000. The Philippines has the lowest public spending on housing in Asia and housing and community development received only 1.2% of the national budget in 2015.
Filipinos are in a poor state of health. The share of government in the country’s health spending has been falling steeply from 40.6% in 2000 to just 18.9% in 2013. Social insurance has only slightly increased from 7% in 2000 to 11.5% in 2013, and 68.6% of total health spending was still paid out of pocket by patients from their meager salaries, loans or selling property. The cost of public health care itself is equivalent to 3.8 days’ worth of the minimum wage and is a burden on the poor. Child and infant mortality remain high at 31:1,000 and 23:1,000, respectively, and the lack of public health facilities and skilled personnel in the country is reflected in the number of women compelled or who choose to deliver at home. Moreover, mortality rates for the poorest are many times huigher tan for those at the highest income levels. The incidence of fully immunized children has even decreased from 68.4% in 2014 to 61.9% in 2015.
Education is increasingly becoming a privilege. While the Philippines provides tuition-free education in the primary and secondary levels, tuition rates are deregulated for private schools. Poverty also denies millions of Filpino children the right to a decent education with high non-tuition expenses such as for transport, school supplies and uniforms, and the like. The recent debut of reformed education program K+12’s Senior High School underscored not only how privatized education keeps many poor Filipinos unenrolled but how public funds are utilized to fund education that is privately-run for business. IBON Features