MANILA, Philippines - The head of the International Labor Organization (ILO) in the country said the Philippines still lags behind neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in labor productivity as he urged for stronger social protection for displaced workers and transparency in governance to attract investments.
ILO Country Rep. Lawrence Jeff Johnson said from seven developing Asean economies, it is only the Philippines that has been growing at a flat rate from 2005 to 2010.
He said other Asean nations, led by Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, grew on an upward trend but the Philippines was lagging behind during the five-year period.
The ILO chief said the government needs to focus on programs to improve the lives of close to 15 million people in vulnerable employment. These include workers that lack social protection, no decent salaries and exposed to various job-related risks.
“The Philippines needs to focus its investments on its competitive areas, particularly in education that has high impact on labor productivity,” said Johnson at the launch of the National Statistics Month held on Monday at the Century Park Hotel in Manila.
He said other areas that will impact labor productivity in the Philippines include investments in infrastructure, attracting foreign direct investments and rule of law that include transparency in governance.
Johnson said the government needs to implement social protection measures such as an insurance scheme that will provide workers with salary even when they are displaced from their jobs.
The ILO chief said the Philippines has not been spared from the harsh impact of the global financial crisis as overseas markets particularly Europe and the United States weakened.
He said the rising number of those underemployed that reached a six-year high in July 2012 at 22.7 percent or 8.5 million underemployed, an increase of 1.451 million compared last year “is a cause for concern.”
Johnson also agreed with the call of Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz to implement not just accurate statistics on the labor market but also more on analysis.
“The Department of Labor and Employment is pushing for inclusive growth through decent and productive work. I, therefore, urge our researchers to direct their work to the important outcome of supporting our quest for decent and productive work that will lead to inclusive growth,” said Baldoz in her speech at the forum.