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Monday, December 29, 2008

DOLE YEARENDER: Weathering the Crises Through Well-placed Programs

First Part of a Series

Year 2008 was a turbulent and challenging period in the efforts of the Department of Labor and Employment to assist the Filipino workers locally and abroad cope with the impact of external factors, notably the rising food and fuel prices and weakening of the U.S. dollar in the early part of the year and the raging financial crisis that continuously rocks the world and brings incalculable instability to countries adversely hit by the crisis.

In the midst of difficulties, the DOLE, nevertheless, remained steadfast in the pursuit of its objective to promote the employment and welfare of every worker. The year, thus, saw the DOLE’s vigilance and prompt responses it undertook in order to mitigate the impact of the disastrous external environment on the workers. It introduced new measures while strengthening existing programs to improve its delivery of services to the workers in line with its five major strategies, namely, support for employment generation, employment facilitation, employment preservation, and employment enhancement.

Geared towards the attainment of a gainfully employed, globally competitive, secure, and a safe workforce, the DOLE pursues its strategies with the well-being of the workers at the top of its agenda.

Livelihood Assistance to 85,810 Marginalized Workers

While recognizing the role of the private sector as the main engine in employment generation, the DOLE, nonetheless, implemented various livelihood programs aimed at assisting vulnerable sectors such as the self-employed and unpaid family workers make their existing livelihood undertakings grow into viable and sustainable businesses. Assistance in restoring the livelihood resources of self-employed workers which were destroyed by natural disasters was also extended. Meanwhile, the income of low-salaried workers was augmented by helping them engage in collective enterprise undertakings.

Early this year, the livelihood programs were rationalized and reformulated to optimize program benefits and suit the needs of target clients, specifically informal sector (IS) workers including the differently-abled persons, indigenous peoples, parents of child laborers, disadvantaged women and youth, urban poor, and landless farmers and fisherfolks and returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Consequently, a total of 85,810 marginalized and vulnerable groups of workers were assisted in livelihood formation, enhancement, and restoration.

In response to increases in the price of food and oil that occurred at the onset of 2008, the DOLE launched the Dagdag Kabuhayan Para sa mga Manggagawa or the workers’ income augmentation program (WINAP) to assist low-income organized and unorganized workers in the formal sector set up and operate their own businesses or livelihood undertakings without necessarily leaving their current jobs. The program benefited a total of 43,666 low-income workers from 131 unions who were assisted in obtaining additional income sources to enable them provide adequately for their families.

Emergency/Bridging Employment for Displaced Workers

At the same time, the DOLE implemented the Adjustment Measures Program (DOLE-AMP) to assist displaced workers engage in livelihood projects. In 2008, the program’s coverage was extended to workers displaced by natural calamities benefiting a total of 2,669 workers displaced by typhoon “Frank.” The beneficiaries were provided emergency employment in the form of wage subsidy in small-scale public works and infrastructure development projects of local governments in their respective locality.

Efforts were also set in place to mainstream the concerns of women and young workers including child laborers. The DOLE in this regard widened the coverage of the Women Workers Empowerment through Entrepreneurship Development program to assist not only organized women workers but also women in the informal sector also in setting up livelihood undertakings.

New Projects

For young workers, the DOLE initiated the Youth Entrepreneurship Support project to mold new entrants to the labor force who could not be absorbed by wage employment become entrepreneurs and possibly employ members of working youth organizations. To date, the DOLE in eight regions have already partnered with the academe, LGUs, and other government and non-government organizations for the implementation of the project.

To help parents of child laborers earn incomes through livelihood undertakings, the DOLE started the. Kabuhayan para sa Magulang ng Batang Manggagawa (KaSaMa) in line with the objective in child labor prevention and elimination. In Region 3 (Central Luzon), 20 parents of child workers received almost P150,000 KaSaMa funds for their training-cum-production on dressmaking, salted eggs and balut-making, and meat processing.

Later in the year, the DOLE also launched two similar emergency employment projects, the Integrated Services for Livelihood and Advancement of the Fisherfolks (ISLA) and Tulong Hanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged Workers (TUPAD). ISLA aims to assist 2,500 maginalized fisherfolks in Iligan City and coastal municipalities of Misamis Oriental and Bataan make their existing livelihood undertakings grow into viable and sustainable businesses. TUPAD, on the other hand, aims to provide short-term wage employment to 1,188 disadvantaged workers in Bulacan and Bataan. The two projects would be implemented in cooperation with local government units (LGUs).

Towards the end of the year, Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque also launched the youth education-youth employability or YE-YE project by entering into an agreement with Jollibee fast food chain for an undertaking that would give children of IS workers and child laborers an opportunity to pursue a post-secondary course through tuition fee advances while being afforded essential training at the workplace. The projects targets to assist some 100,000 children of IS workers in their studies in the next two years.

Assistance to new entrants to the labor force and indigent students

Bridging employment assistance were also extended to new entrants to the labor force and poor but deserving students to enable them acquire the necessary work experience and entry-level requirements of industry under the Special Program for the Employment of Students and the Kasanayan at Hanapbuhay program. Both programs, which benefited almost one million students since 2001, exposed the beneficiaries to actual work situations and provided them with opportunities to appreciate work and develop work ethics while earning some income.

Reintegration Services for OFWs

Meanwhile, the DOLE’s National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) extended various reintegration services to returning OFWs to help them sustain their earnings from abroad. These services included the provision of business and investment counseling, referral to banks and microfinance credit facilities, financial management and investment opportunities, and livelihood support. The NRCO assisted a total of 25,541 OFWs and their families as well since its establishment in March 2007. The Center also extended assistance to 325 OFWs in Taiwan who lost their jobs due to the financial crisis. Services provided the OFWs included job search for local or overseas placement, issuance of TESDA Training Certificates of Commitment, and Certificates of Eligibility for livelihood assistance. Legal services were also given to those seeking refund of placement fees and or deferment of loan payments.

OWWA, on the other hand, approved 1,008 livelihood projects of 72,798 OFWs and their dependents. The agency’s Groceria Project also granted 818 OFW Family Circles with 17,917 members with interest-free loans in the form of P50,000 worth of grocery items and goods for their OFW Grocerias.

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