Wage hike in Calabarzon JUSTIFIED?
Job and Employment

Wage hike in Calabarzon JUSTIFIED?

Aug 22, 2023, 8:00 AM
OpinYon News Team

OpinYon News Team

News Reporter

Why is Metro Manila still an attractive place to work with among the labor force in Laguna province? One answer may be the wide disparity in the minimum wage set between the National Capital Region and the Southern Luzon area.

Why is Metro Manila still an attractive place to work with among the labor force in Laguna province?

One answer may be the wide disparity in the minimum wage set between the National Capital Region (NCR) and the Southern Luzon area.

This, despite the fact that the standard of living in Laguna province – particularly in the western "Industrial Belt" from San Pedro to Calamba cities – have equaled that of Metro Manila, particularly when it comes to prices of basic commodities.

Wage hike now

This is the issue Laguna 2nd District Representative Ruth Mariano-Hernandez seeks to solve when she filed House Resolution 1172 last August 8.

In the resolution, Hernandez urged the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to "urgently" pass a minimum wage increase not only in Laguna province but in the whole of Calabarzon.

The solon raised the issue of the wide disparity between the minimum wages of Calabarzon and Metro Manila as one primary factor in her decision to file the resolution.

“Ang paghimok natin sa RTWPB at DOLE na i-adjust ang minimum na sahod ay hakbang upang tulungan ang mga manggagawa sa Laguna at rehiyon ng Calabarzon na maiangat ang kanilang sahod para sa paglaon ay magkaroon ng mas nakabubuhay na sahod para kanilang sarili at mahal sa buhay,” the solon said.

Huge contrast

Decisions on wages in the Philippines currently fall on the lap of RTWPBs, which decide on the minimum wage of each region based on their current socio-economic demographics.

Critics of the system, however, claimed that this has resulted in income inequality that has, in turn, triggered migration from the poorer regions into the more economically-progressive ones like Metro Manila.

No better contrast can be seen in the fact that in Calabarzon, despite the proliferation of numerous large-scale industries and the increase, in recent years, of economic opportunities (despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic), minimum wages are still significantly smaller than that of Metro Manila.

Case in point: under the last wage adjustment that was approved by the Calabarzon RTWPB last year, the minimum wage in the region stands from P350 to P470, depending on workers' category.

That ranges from P470 for non-agricultural workers; P429 for agricultural workers, and P350 in retail and service establishments with not more than 10 workers.

And even that varies by location: workers in the cities of San Pedro and Biñan, for instance, receive P470, while component cities and first-class municipalities have a P429 daily rate.

Wage rates in the second- and third-class municipality workers are set to P390 while the rate in the fourth to 6th class municipalities are set to P350.

By contrast, the minimum wage in NCR – which had just been increased last month – now stands at P570 to P610 for the non-agricultural sector and from P533 to P573 for the agricultural, retail and service establishments with not more than 15 workers.

Workers in San Pedro and Biñan cities, as a result, may find it more attractive to work in nearby Muntinlupa City, although it should be remembered that proximity is just one determining factor in choosing where to work.

Inflation woes

Notwithstanding the fact that Laguna province reported the slowest inflation rate among the five provinces in Calabarzon region (3.0 percent by June 2023, compared to the regional average of 5.5 percent based on data from the Philippine Statistics Authority), the fact remains that consumers in Laguna province still find it difficult to tighten their belts, so to speak.

“Sa ngayon po, hindi po siya nagiging sapat dahil sa pamasahe pa lang, lugi na ako, tapos isama pa ang mga gastusin sa bahay,” Nick Daza, a service crew staff, told OpinYon Laguna. “Pero no choice rin po ako dahil mahirap na rin po ngayong maghanap ng trabaho.”

Daza, who works at a fast-food chain, says his current minimum salary was just over P400 – not a large amount compared to the hardship faced in his job every day.

“Yung galawan mo doon, dapat higit pa sa halagang P400 kaya talagang pagod ako after duty. Kaya palagay ko dapat lang na itaas ang sahod dito, lalo na’t katabi lang natin ang NCR. Ano lagi tayo nahuhuli kahit na katabi lang natin sila?” he asked.

Striking a balance

However, business managers have often warned legislators who propose wage hikes that such moves could result in a shutdown of businesses, particularly micro-, small- and medium-scale enterprises.

Business insiders in San Pedro City have told OpinYon Laguna that despite the removal of all restrictions brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, most businesses in the province, particularly in the food service and call-center sector, still struggle to make even in their businesses.

That was the same sentiment shared by small businesses in the province, like Chay Garay, a bakery owner who says she still suffers losses three years after the pandemic struck.

“Sa ingredients pa lang ng tinapay lugi na ako. Pero nabababwi naman kapag madaming nabili. Medyo pa lang,” she told OpinYon Laguna.

This explains why many small businesses in the province have received Hernandez’s proposals with reluctance.

“Kung kailangan sundin walang magagawa. E di naman pwedeng di mo sundin dahil baka ma-DOLE o matulfo kapa. Pero sana pag-aralan muna nila ng mabuti dahil kami ang unang magiging apektado nyan. Tulad ngayon hindi naman araw araw maraming nabili ng paninda ko, di ba? E pano yan? Yung kikitain ko sa isang araw mapupunta lang sa pambayad sa kasama ko dito. Hindi rin naman araw-araw na nandito ako dahil may mga inaasikaso din ako. Kaya sana pag-aralan muna nila,” she said.

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