The pandemic continues, and the unemployment rate rises. Workers are being laid off in large numbers as well. Those who were kept had to take pay cuts or do the work of two or more people. Companies are streamlining their workforce to cut costs – in order to survive the pandemic, they said. Because there are fewer jobs available, a worker remains and bears the brunt of being overworked, underpaid, and in a precarious state.
In most cases, workers are discouraged to complain: aren’t they fortunate to have a job while millions don’t? This is starting to become a norm all throughout the world. The Philippines is not exempt from this.
In 2020, a Philippine lawmaker requested that the Department of Labor keep an eye on various reports of exploitation in the BPO sector. From unpaid salaries to prolonged home-based work schedules.1
This means that labour compliance has deteriorated, and for workers doing home-based gigs, this could have a negative impact, if it hasn’t already. Home-based workers, a larger subset of whom are forced to clock in more work hours for less pay and (normally) without subsidies for electronic equipment and Internet connection used for their work, lack contracts, access to social or medical benefits accorded to regular employees, and basic workers’ rights.2 Workers are also monitored by clients using tracking apps or platforms.
Sadly, the pandemic has enabled penny-pinching tacks by requiring these gig workers to meet a work quota or multitask, or, in other words, to be transformed into super machines.
High unemployment has firmly shifted the balance of power from workers to employers, and pressure on corporate margins has in some circumstances led to the loss of wages, benefits and conditions as employers seek to restrain costs. – Worker exploitation: an epidemic within a pandemic, AMP Capital
The number of home-based freelancers in the Philippines has skyrocketed, particularly during the pandemic, as a result of rising unemployment and corporate decisions to shift to temporary work-from-home (WFH) arrangements.3
Although, according to statistics, the unemployment rate in July 2021 was 6.9%, or 3.1 million (15 years and up), down 1.5 million from the same period a year ago, when it was 10%, or 4.6 million unemployed individuals in the same age group, the work situation remains unstable, with a large number of workers still disenfranchised.
In a recent development, another senator has proposed legislation to protect gig economy workers’ rights and protect them from exploitation.4
A Filipino member of the Facebook group I belonged to advertised and peddled “her” virtual assistant (VA) to other blog site owners who might be in need of one. She even revealed that she pays the VA $5 per hour and that she can multitask, among other things. Her post made it seem as if she owned the VA and even transacted on her behalf by accepting enquiries! Worse, a Filipino has taken advantage of another Filipino. I notified the group’s administrator.
As the saying goes, “a drowning man will grab at a straw,” and in times of desperation, boundaries are lowered, allowing for unethical working conditions.
Nonetheless, both the hirer and the worker can have the ability to break the cycle of exploitation.
Just one phrase to end it all : DO NOT EXPLOIT
It is simple. But for those who have no concept of ethics, that is difficult to do. Their only way of surviving is to take advantage of others.
They are unable to think of any other means of improving their situation besides exploitation.
Just one word to curb abusive practices: STOP
Even if your voice quivers, stop and say no.
When in doubt, ask your heart. Feel it in your gut.
Is this your worth : To be abused by someone who will not care if you live or die?
You are better than this.
Remember, these leeches cannot build their empire without your skill.
You have the tools. You can rise above your situation.
Prayer to St Jude Thaddeus – Patron saint of hope, impossible causes, and the unemployed
Lord Jesus, my desire to work is itself your gift. You gave me talents so I could shine Your light to others in the world. Send Your Spirit to guide me to work that will provide security and joy, and most of all the ability to serve You in love.
St. Jude, I do not know where I am going—and so I call upon you in my need. Bless my spirit with the determination to press on. Give my heart patience and fortitude.
Help me, dear friend, to know that God’s plan for me is forged out of love. Amen.