NEDA’s hypothetical ‘decent budget’ undermines workers’ demand for wage hike

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The assertion of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) on ‘decent budget’ of a minimum wage earner monthly falls short of the family living wage pegged at P1,173 per day (P977 for a family of 5), according to the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER).

EILER noted that NEDA Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon has admitted that the P10,000 monthly budget is hypothetical. The budget allots only P3,834 on food, which means only P25.56 per family member per day. NEDA has yet to finish their study on how much is a decent budget for a family to live with. The labor NGO however still pointed out that NEDA’s intent on releasing such hypothetical figure is questionable and labeling it as ‘decent’ can be used as basis to prevent workers’ demand of substantial wage increase.

NEDA’s hypothetical decent budget allots only P3,834 on food, which means only P25.56 per family member per day. NEDA has yet to finish their study on how much is a decent budget for a family to live with.

“NEDA’s figures are misleading and unrealistic. In fact, the figures are contradictory to some of the data NEDA and PSA had released prior,” said Rochelle Porras, EILER executive director.

EILER stressed that while the cost of living rises, the monthly poverty threshold remains at P9,140. The food threshold is at P6,365 per month for a family of five or P42.43 per family member. These figures are inadequate for formal and informal workers suffering from extreme poverty and high cost of basic goods. At home, informal women workers are burdened to augment family income in order to work around their inadequate household budget.

Agricultural workers are the hardest hit, only paid P245 per day (Region VIII) which is only about 20 per cent of much needed living wage. They also suffer from land grabbing, unemployment, rampant flexible forms of labor, slave-like working conditions, homelessness, and lack of effective social protection programs. Generational poverty and the worsening rate of joblessness in the country bolstered by contractualization and other labor flexibilization schemes further press down workers’ wages.

“Poverty incidence had gone up in the last 10 years and with the implementation of TRAIN law, every Filipino worker should receive a substantial wage increase to cope with higher prices and inflation. Instead, we get a computation that is just slightly above the poverty threshold in what seems to be an attempt of the agency to justify the very low wages employers pay their workers at present,” Porras added.

The labor NGO also said that NEDA should listen to the legitimate demands of the workers and show realistic figures. A misleading computation of what is a decent household budget does nothing to address the root cause of poverty. To address the worsening living conditions of the poor, immediate substantial wage hike is just and necessary.

“We urge the Duterte administration to prioritize bills focusing on strengthening constitutional rights of workers such as House Bill 1045 or the Regular Employment Bill and Senate Bill 1317 or the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Act and the newly filed House Bill 7787 or the National Minimum Wage Bill,” Porras concluded.

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