ARSENIO M. BALISACAN
Economic Planning Secretary and NEDA Director-General
2015 Human Development Report Launch
18 January 2016, 1:00 pm
The Manila Peninsula, Makati City
Mr. Fidel V. Ramos, former president of the Republic of the Philippines; Mr. Ola Almgren, Resident Coordinator and Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz of the Department of Labor and Employment; Mr. Nicholas Rosellini, Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific and Director of the Bangkok Regional Hub UNDP; Dr. Selim Jahan, Director of the Human Development Report Office; Mr. Titon Mitra, Country Director of the United Nations Development Programme; colleagues and other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.
It is my pleasure to welcome you all to this Regional Launch of the 2015 Human Development Report or HDR, which is part of a three-country event together with Thailand and Sri Lanka. As we may all know, assessing human development goes beyond income. Measures of well-being such as the ability to lead a long and healthy life, to acquire knowledge, and to achieve a decent standard of living are also crucial. The theme for this year’s Report is “Work for Human Development”. It focuses on how work enhances human development through increased incomes and expanded opportunities.
Why should we look at work? Allow me to share an excerpt from the 2002 Philippine Human Development Report on work and well-being:
“Work is perhaps the most vital component of human development. It is essential to well-being both as a means-to-an-end and an end-in-itself. As a means to an end, work is a principal way that the great majority of people secure their material and physical existence…It is somewhat less noticed, however, that work is also an end-in-itself. Work is a profoundly human activity and contributes much to what makes people human.”
And as the 2015 HDR stresses, “The link between work and human development is not automatic; it depends on the quality of work, the conditions of work, the societal value of work and so on. Hence, it is not enough for people to have work, it matters more how this work upholds a person’s dignity, giving each individual a sense of pride and accomplishment in what they do.
The 2015 Report revisits the evolving role of work amidst changes brought about by structural reforms, globalization, and digital revolution, among others. It also looks into the role of work as we face the remaining human development challenges including gender gaps, income inequality and climate change risks.
Let me also note that the theme for this year’s HDR is very much aligned with our country’s goal of achieving inclusive growth through the massive creation of quality employment and the reduction of poverty in its multiple dimensions. Investments for building human capital is a must and would require increased resources for social development that will enable equitable access to health, education, housing and social protection services.
Over the past five years, we have made major strides on this front. During the course of President Benigno Aquino III’s administration, our country grew at an annual average of 6.2 percent from 2010 to 2014, making us one of the fastest-growing major economies in Asia. This robust growth reflected the improvement of our country’s employment wherein the proportion of the unemployed recently reached a new 10-year record low of 5.6 percent primarily resulting from the boost in the services and industry sectors. This is the first time the unemployment rate dropped below the government’s target of 6.6 to 6.8 percent. Moreover, expenditures for social services have significantly increased, wherein the average social services expenditures per person over the past five years, adjusted for inflation, are now 37 percent higher than the same expenditures from 2005 to 2009.
Furthermore, the government’s programs have been geared toward providing our people with the necessary knowledge and skills to achieve their goals. For the long-term, we have undertaken basic education reforms through the K to 12 program, which adds two more years to basic education, providing Filipino students sufficient time to master the new curriculum that is at par with international standards. Also contributing to the agenda is the Conditional Cash Transfer or CCT Program, which provides cash assistance to families that send their children to school regularly. Other investments have also been made, most prominently through the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, which has equipped 7.8 million graduates from various courses with skills relevant to different industries.
We recognize the need to monitor and respond to trends in employment relevant to our communities. The Commission on Higher Education has been working continuously to eliminate substandard and non-compliant programs, while developing programs in high demand and emerging fields. For example, to help our out-of-school youth gain broader access to economic opportunities, the Department of Education has been implementing Abot-Alam program, which translates to Knowledge Within Reach, the first initiative that aims to map out-of-school youth nationwide and match them with appropriate interventions in education, skills training on entrepreneurship. The Department of Labor and Employment also helps at-risk youth to be job-ready in terms of acquiring the skill sets required by employers such as life skills, technical and company internship through the JobStart Program. Through these programs, we have reduced the number of out-of-school youth by a substantial 1.7 million from 2.9 million in 2008 to 1.2 million in 2013, according to the Philippine Institute of Development Studies.
The targeted manner in which we have addressed challenges and created opportunities for our youth can likewise be observed in other areas – for instance, in the informal sector. Our domestic workers make up a significant part of the informal labor force, whether in the Philippines or elsewhere in the world. The nature of their employment makes it difficult to regulate; even so, our country has demonstrated extraordinary leadership in this regard.
In 2012, the Philippines became the second country to ratify International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers – the first international instrument recognizing domestic workers as having human and employment rights entitled to protection under the law. Our country has also signed bilateral agreements with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Lebanon for the protection of overseas Filipino domestic workers.
Here within our own shores, Republic Act (RA) No. 10361, or An Act Instituting Policies for the Protection and Welfare of Domestic Workers — more commonly known as the Kasambahay Law — was finally enacted into law under this administration. Under this law, our 1.9 million domestic workers are recognized as members of the informal sector, with all the appropriate rights, benefits, training and competency assessments.
In addition, the Social Security System created a Cooperatives and Informal Sector Department to handle the development of a social security program that is responsive and tailored to the needs of the informal sector, given that the existing social security policies focus primarily on formal sector workers.
There are also continuing efforts to develop a more comprehensive social protection and labor systems for learning and collaboration among partners and stakeholders. An example is the Core Diagnostic Systems Assessment Instrument, a tool that is used to identify the strengths and weaknesses of social protection and labor systems in the country and to guide further improvements.
We have also been strengthening the enforcement of health and safety standards and implementation of labor legislation. Apart from the conduct of a mandatory course for safety officers, the Occupational Safety and Health Center has recently extended its services for the informal sector and for the occupationally-disabled workers. Moreover, the passage of Republic Act 10395 (Strengthening Tripartism and Social Dialogue) in 2013 and Republic Act 10396 (Strengthening Conciliation and Mediation as Voluntary Mode of Settling Labor Disputes) in 2012 provide the legislative support for workers’ rights.
Nevertheless, much remains to be done to link work with human development and inclusive growth. In our latest Progress Report on the Millennium Development Goals, we have concluded that the provision of decent work, higher productivity rates, and reduction in the number of the working poor are some of our immediate challenges. Moreover, the high percentage of own-account workers and unpaid family workers, skill mismatches, and lack of green jobs for sustainable development need to be likewise addressed. Apart from these, the fact that there is still a high number of women and children trafficked for purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor and that there are children still working in hazardous or dangerous conditions and who are exposed to various forms of sexual and economic exploitation, including the worst forms of child labor, continue to plague us.
While the tasks are formidable, we remain optimistic. This afternoon’s forum presents us all with an opportunity to learn how we can all move forward. Our eminent speakers will share with us the status of global human development, how work has been an instrument for well-being, and what policy options we have to ensure growth is inclusive for all. I am confident that we will have a fruitful discussion today.
Thank you and Mabuhay.