The economic and health cost of the worsening traffic problem has reached critical level almost a decade ago.
Since 2012, the economic cost of Metro Manila traffic problem was estimated at P2.5 billion per day and has risen in 2018 to P3.5 billion per day, a cumulative total cost of almost P7 trillion in the past eight years. If left unsolved the daily cost could reach P5.4 billon or P2 trillion per year.
Smog from traffic choke points has caused serious respiratory illness to many daily commuters. Not to mention the missed opportunities for job promotions due to habitual tardiness.
To repeat the claim of a previous top government official that traffic is a sign of progress is at once delusional, laughable and insensitive.
Various proposals were forwarded to solve the traffic problem ranging from rational to impractical, like making EDSA a one-way traffic lane, bike lanes, elevated walkways and a parking ban.
Not to be left behind lawmakers joined the chorus and have revived the four-day workweek with two House bills which were filed recently. The original bill compels state agencies to grant government workers a four-day, 10-hour workweek principally to ease traffic woes in Metro Manila. On the other hand, the refiled bills make it optional for all employees but disguised it with the noble aim of fostering quality time with family and raising productivity in the workplace, and easing traffic is only an afterthought.
New Zealand, Germany and other developed economies successfully experimented a four-day, 10-hour workweek precisely to achieve such lofty objective and not to ease traffic.
It is noteworthy to mention that the trial work arrangement of these countries is solely a private enterprise initiative and not compelled by legislation. Our local entrepreneurs may adopt the same model because copying good business practices for the right reason is not shameful and should even be encouraged.
Employers by and large do not oppose the bills on a four-day workweek because they merely amplify the flexibility of employers in the Labor Code. Even before these bills were filed, a number of companies and state institutions have already adopted this scheme together with work-from-home arrangements.
Making it optional recognizes the situational nature of this work model and the bills simply provide official imprimatur to a special work arrangement that was implied in the Labor Code.
For sure, there are benefits as well as challenges under a four-day, 10-hour workweek that is best left alone for companies to consider before plunging into this new work model.
The ensuing three-day weekend for family bonding time, increase in domestic tourism, recharging of worker’s energy, higher productivity and easing of the traffic problem are some benefits that may be achieved under this employment scheme.
But studies show that work beyond eight hours a day may cause fatigue and diminished concentration, which could compromise health and safety of workers. There will be loss of a day’s income for those who are on a no-work-no-pay arrangement. Traffic problem may even worsen as workers and families have more time to go to public parks or malls during the three-day weekend. The extended two-hour work daily will disrupt family dinner time and homework tutoring and nightly story-sharing with their children as working parents will arrive home past their bedtime. It will shorten workers’ sleeping time for four straight nights as they reach home late, tired to do their house chores and rise early the next day for commuting and preparing things for their children who are going to school.
Employers welcome these two bills, but we caution policymakers to be more circumspect when they file legislative proposals mandating one-size-fits-all solutions, which can do more harm as they introduce unusual obstruction to industrial peace.
Traffic problem, which the bills are really addressing, can be solved with the proven TRIPLE E formula — engineering, education, and enforcement.
The optional four-day workweek proposal, had it been made compulsory, would have been a solution begging for a problem.