Job generation in April 2018 from the same period the year was an unremarkable 625,000 new jobs. One of the symptoms of our dysfunctional society is the lack of jobs and low wages for the few lucky ones who have found work. This is very palpable in the mass of “tambay.” Everyday from morning until dusk, able-bodied men and even women with nothing to do loiter in street corners in cities and towns. For many, hunting jobs is a grind itself. But more of them become “tambay” after finding it unsuccessful landing jobs. They then fall into the statistical category of “discouraged” workers, those unceremoniously removed from the labor force along with the housewives and the migrant workers. An IBON report says: “The number of unemployed increased by 82,000 to 4.13 million with the unemployment rate at an unchanged 9.1 percent from the same period last year (estimated by IBON for greater comparability with historical trends). Labor force participation rates have not improved and are still at their lowest in decades.” As President Duterte prepares for his State of the Nation Address this Monday, he will have to expound on several controversial issues like the BBB (Build, Build, Build!), the country’s growing debt and AmBisyon 2040. But the basic economic issue remains that of pernicious poverty. There are no livelihood opportunities and no jobs – unemployment is the flipside of the issue behind the eyesore “tambay” and drug addicts. The new issue of IBON Birdtalk is very revealing. Last year should have been an eye-opener – the economy grew at a hyped 6.7 percent but it actually shed 663,000 jobs. Not only did the economy fail to create new jobs but there were actually hundreds of thousands less jobs to be had. This was the biggest contraction in employment in 20 years (since 1997). Job generation in April 2018 from the same period the year was an unremarkable 625,000 new jobs. This is just around the historical average since the 1980s and actually even less than average annual employment generation of over 800,000 since the 2000s. The pattern of employment creation also does not indicate an economy developing strong foundations. The most job creation was in construction (465,000 added) and in public administration (260,000) which together account for at least half of gross job creation. Some quarters claim a manufacturing resurgence, yet job creation in the sector was tepid with “…the 111,000 new jobs created coming in a distant third. …The share of the sector in total employment is still at a low 8.9 percent which is much below that in the 1960s and 1970s.” Livelihood generation and entrepreneurship development go hand in hand with improving wages for workers. Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) called for a P750 increase in minimum wages for industrial workers – this should cascade down to service, informal workers and also agricultural workers, especially the farm workers and poor odd-job employees who are paid a lot less. Where does KMU base its call? “Inflation has increased the family living wage needed for meeting basic needs to P979 for a family of five and P1,175 for a family of six in the National Capital Region as of June 2018. The NCR nominal minimum wage is however still kept low at P512 which means wage gaps of P467 (48 percent shortfall) and P663 (56 percent), respectively. The wage gap will continue to widen as inflation erodes the unchanging mandated minimum wage. The Duterte administration only raised the NCR minimum wage once by a piddling P21 in October last year.” — IBON. Livelihood generation and jobs promotion along with wage increase are key issues which should be on top of this administration’s agenda. Raising workers’ income to approximate living costs has fundamental implications starting with access to the basic goods and services for a decent life. Increase in income changes the mindset of people, ensuring that quality living is assured as well as those of their families and communities. We can expect a lot of debates and opposition from the business sector as it will bear the recurring costs. But such costs go back to society and the health of the economy. That is the main social responsibility for business – start with workers not for charity but for social and professional improvement that ensures living incomes for the employees. For a start, maybe the big multinationals and conglomerates can rise to the challenge.