The real battle is here, at home

By Ms Joanna Bernice Coronacion, Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) at the Year-end reception on youth employment “Ugnayan para sa kabataan: An appreciation and recognition night”, Makati City, Philippines, 21 November 2012

Statement | Makati City, Philippines | 21 November 2012
A wonderful evening to everyone! This is a great opportunity, especially for the Filipino youths, to gather, to share organizational experiences, and to reiterate our mutual aspirations to help build a future where the youths are ensured, among others, of quality education and secure and decent jobs.

In fact, the urgent need to address the precarious employment among the youths is one of the issues that bind us. This was also the underlying topic discussed during the Youth Employment Forum last May 23-25 at the ILO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. This night let me share with you what I learned in the said International Youth Conference and its significance to what we, the organized youths, are doing to uplift the lot of the youths as well as the majority of the citizens in general.

In this activity, the ILO has recognized that the discussions on youth employment are imperative. Trade unions, employers, governments and civil societies were represented here, including about 130 young people from around the world. This was the culmination of 46 national consultations initiated by the ILO where nearly 5,000 people participated.

The output of this historical activity was presented in the subsequent 101st International Labor Conference. Main proposals drawn out there also were to establish Youth Employment Forum every year prior to the annual ILC, and to create an International Youth Advisory Council, which are seen as venues to engage and involve more young people in wide-ranging discussions that will amplify our issues and concerns and will help advance our agenda.

With regards to the Young People’s Agenda on education and training, there is a need for educational modules to be tailored to the needs of one’s country. Thus, our institutions like the DOLE, CHED, DepEd, etc. must discuss and work together with the private sector, the trade unions and youth organizations to develop a more effective and efficient education and trainings for the young people.

On the transition from school to work to decent work, there is a need to organize internships with minimum standards; and a push for guaranteed jobs program is necessary. An emphasis on capacity building for the youth with special needs, as well as a guide in the transition from informal to formal employment, should be added to provide them with tools to undertake development actions at all levels.

Likewise, it is important to analyse the workers’ situation in the informal sector to better identify the main challenges of this sector. It is believed that the transformation of the informal to the formal would be seen as asset not only for the organization of activities but also to ensure decent work for this category of workers. A push for social entrepreneurship and a need to integrate human and workers’ rights in the school curriculum, especially in the tertiary level, are encouraged.

These were the proposals for entrepreneurship and jobs quality and rights. For young people’s empowerment and participation, it is said that we must have an active role in the development of public policies at the country level. This includes groups such as students, cultural, human rights, ethnic groups and others; meaning, involvement of young people in all levels of decision making activities.

Lastly, on job generation, the key element is to address public policies which create jobs for the youth. Public policies should be strengthened in the fight against precarious employment, establishing security for the first job and creating spaces that help the youth find decent work.

Well, as an individual, being in Geneva was a great opportunity for me; it was like enjoying a fresh air to breathe, new people to meet, and a different culture to encounter. But having said that, I was also forced not to eat rice, not to sleep well and not to talk using my mother tongue. It was virtually a “nose bleed.” But take note, I am happy to represent the young people of this country. I am glad and proud that I was selected to represent the Philippines in the ILO’s Youth Employment Forum, and from the 130 delegates from around the world, I was doubly fortunate to be included among the 10 selected youth reps – only two came from Asia – to sit in the International Labor Conference.

However, the real battle is here, at home. Youth employment is not even just the young people’s concern, but it should be everyone’s concern:

The Philippines has one of the youngest populations in Southeast Asia with a median age of 23 years, considered as a major economic advantage moving forward, the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) said.

Based on 2010 data, the Philippines’ median age was the third youngest, next only to Lao PDR (21 years) and Cambodia (22 years) which are among the weaker member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in terms of economic growth/performance.

The brain drain has become a bigger problem in the last 12 years, as the yearly exodus of people trained in science and technology (S&T) grew by about two and a half times from 1998 to 2009.

According to a Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES) report, the number of S&T workers who opted for overseas jobs rose from 9,877 in 1998 to 24,502 in 2009.

The numbers refer only to new hires or those leaving the country for jobs for the first time.

Young people make up the bulk of poor Filipinos without jobs, a report by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) showed.

NSCB underscored the need to address youth unemployment in the country, citing its latest “Sexy Statistics” report which covered the years 2006 to 2009.

Data show that about three in five unemployed people are aged 15 to 24.

Globally, young people are nearly 3 times more likely than adults to be unemployed. Many of the young, who do work, have poor working conditions and often found in vulnerable forms of employment, said ILO.

In the Philippines, of 18.2 million Filipinos 15 to 24 years of age, there are:
  • 1.5 million unemployed youth striving to find employment opportunities after investing in their skills and education that may not be in demand at home or abroad
  • 2.3 million vulnerably employed youth often unable to invest in their education, which forces them into forms of vulnerable employment.

Vulnerably employed youth are often left with little choice but to accept or create whatever work they can find, just so they and their loved ones can survive another day.

This is not just about ensuring economic development, but it is also about people’s claiming their rights and dignity. This is about how we should respect each other. ILO promotes decent work and we want decent work, but to pursue this we really need to work together. From that activity, I can say that we may be from different parts of the world, but there is a common denominator – that we all wanted to live with better life and future not just for ourselves, but for the next generations. Thus, we should act now!