Ending the ‘endo’ system by greening the economy

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In the recent forum of the Green Convergence on “green jobs”, one question arose: Can greening the economy stop the endo phenomenon, or what the trade unions call as “contractualization”?

The answer is yes, it can.  At the very least, greening can reduce the tendency of employers to resort to the 5-5-5 and other short-term hiring arrangements.

First, it should be pointed out that the widespread casualization of paid labor is rooted in the realities in the economy and the labor market. The unemployed and underemployed low-skilled workers are just too many, while the enterprises able to create regular or stable positions for them are not that many. The predictable outcome from this situation is that employers simply opt for the cheapest route in the hiring of workers, that is, relying on the services of workers they deem as “easily replaceable” and can be matched with low-skilled jobs that can be mastered by the workers in a week or so.

As it is, we have three economic sectors—a stagnant industrial sector, a declining agricultural sector and a growing services sector.  However, except for some “green shoots”, such as the solar and other renewable industries, ecotourism, recycling and so on, all these sectors are generally brown or brownish.  The majority of the paid jobs in these sectors are also casual or contractual.

Greening provides the country an opportunity not only to reverse “stagnant industrialization” and restore “industrial dynamism”, as suggested by ADB’s Norio Usui (2012), but also to promote better or decent jobs. Going up the higher rungs of industrialization involves the employment of workers with higher skills and higher training.  There is no incentive here to let go of workers who are given three to six months of training or longer.  In fact, the problem of certain firms, such as those doing engineering work, is how to retain talents and skilled workers, who have become “poachable” in the domestic and global markets.  To retain these workers, HR managers often come up with various “employee care” programs, such as better compensation, good working conditions, fair treatment at work and, yes, job security, including career pathing program.

On the other hand, going higher value-added and green is a good solution to the existing but uncompetitive low-end manufacturing. The export-led electronics and auto assembly plants should evolve into producers of higher value-added products, such as original equipment manufactures (OEM) and new industrial products.  Likewise, there should be value-adding and job-creating industrialization of minerals, which should be extracted under strict environmental standards. The point is that the Philippines should get out of the rut of the failed labor-intensive, low-technology, low-skill and uncompetitive industrial production, which is also generally environmentally degrading.

As to services, greening the sector means the adoption of more eco-friendly and eco-oriented business practices, including better treatment of workers through the culture of social partnership and respect for the rights of both workers and employers.  Some of the premier tourist destinations in the country today are those espousing the principles of ecotourism, such as Subic, Bohol and Palawan.

In the case of agriculture, some policy issues need to be fleshed out and debated.  The decline of the sector is due to a number of reasons, such as the vision-less deregulation and liberalization of the sector, poor implementation of the 25-year-old agrarian-reform program, corruption in the bureaucracy and so on.  However, one clear factor for the deterioration of agriculture is the poor status of grossly underpaid farm workers, who usually receive a fraction of the mandated minimum wage in various regions and who do not get fair working conditions, such as the sacadas in the sugar and other plantations.  This explains why young workers have been shying away from agriculture and why some government planners are worrying about the perilous “aging” of the farming population.

Clearly, greening agriculture requires an integrated and decisive resolution of the foregoing problems, as well as linking this integrated agricultural development program to the challenge of making the organic farming law of 2010 really work and empowering the small farmers and agricultural workers to become modernization leaders through asset reforms and capability building programs.

Similarly, the success of other job-creating greening initiatives, such as the establishment of carbon-mitigating industries, reforestation, community renewal and environmental rebuilding, requires coherent set of reforms at the policy and implementation levels.  For this purpose, a country needs “just transition” measures. In her think paper “From Jobs to Green Jobs”, former Institute of Labor Studies Director Cynthia Cruz wrote that managing the transition requires the following:

■ Building and sharing environmental knowledge, especially pro-poor studies;

■ Coordinated government-private sector-civil society targeting of green sectors;

■ Setting standards on greening processes (e.g., certification on health, safety and environment);

■ Maximizing community benefits by focusing public policy on the grassroots;

■ Linking green job creation to job training;

■ Partnership building among all stakeholders toward building up adaptive capacity; and

■ Emphasizing “pathways out of poverty” as key focus in addressing greening.

In summary, greening the economy requires mainstreaming the “green vision” in the country’s development blueprint.  Greening should be part of the macroeconomic development framework.  In turn, the green vision should be translated into a “just transition” program for the economy as a whole and for the different sectors.  This would entail a program of “transformation” for each sector, in particular, transformation of the “brown” sectors into green or greener sectors.  Ultimately, greening should result to the creation of more and better jobs, or decent jobs for all.  No more endo.

 

 



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