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Monday, January 26, 2009

Ople Center Calls for a Tripartite Labor Summit Amid Rising Unemployment

The Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute called for a tripartite labor summit on job generation and preservation amid growing concern over the rising tide of unemployment and underemployment due to the global financial crisis.

The call was issued during a labor forum held at the AIM Conference Center in Makati today by the BFO Policy Center and LBS e-Recruitment Solutions, Inc to discuss the impact of the global crisis on the country’s workforce.

The Center noted that Malaysia’s ban on foreign workers may not affect foreign household workers in Malaysia but is a sign that more economies are “going local”. “Out of an estimated 30,000 Filipino workers in peninsular Malaysia, only 4,000 or so are professionals. Malaysia’s ban on hiring of foreign workers except those working in menial jobs combined with the non-renewal of expired work contracts demonstrate how vulnerable some of our OFWs are at this time of crisis,” Susan Ople, president of the BFO Policy Center said, adding that a tripartite labor summit would lead to a multi-sector and multi-pronged approach in helping displaced workers.

The center, named after the late Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas F. Ople, said the impending closure of Intel in the Philippines and other parts of the world where Filipino IT workers are employed, serves as a wake-up call for the country.

“Now is not the time for government to act in isolation from its constituents. We need the kind of consultative and open environment prevailing in America to draw the best ideas from our citizens.”

The Ople Center also noted the Malaysian government’s order for companies to lay off foreign workers first if they need to slash their work force. “This trend towards localization of jobs is a Sword of Damocles hanging over our own economy which is driven mainly by the dollar remittances of our OFWs.”

The former labor undersecretary noted that Macau has also taken specific steps to preserve job vacancies for its residents. Its administration has recently ordered a fifty percent reduction in foreign workers employed by janitorial and security agencies. Meanwhile, there are fears in Taiwan and Macau that more job cuts will be made after the Chinese New Year (January 26) is over.

Ople called on the government to publish guidelines and disseminate information through the barangay system on how displaced workers can seek government aid. She also called for more specific information on newly-created jobs arising from government efforts to stimulate the economy.

“Retrenchment of Filipino workers overseas and here at home signals the need for us to turn inward, creating opportunities for self-employment through microfinance, vocational skills training and community enterprises. We call on government to include the labor and OFW sectors in a serious, open discussion about safety nets and how the P330-billion economic stimulus package will be spent to create new jobs.”

Labor leaders, displaced workers, and migrant workers’ organizations attended the labor forum which included Cora Guidote, vice-president for investor relations of SM Investments Corporation and Professor Ben Diokno of the UP School of Economics. The forum was sponsored by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation and the International Labor Organization Sub-Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

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