Philippine Daily Inquirer

Declining productivi­ty among PH workers

- RAUL J. PALABRICA

Arecent World Bank study showed that the level of productivi­ty among workers in the Philippine­s, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, especially in the digital and electronic sectors, had fallen since the 2000s.

The report states, among others, that while the level of productivi­ty of global companies in the digital manufactur­ing sector had increased by 76 percent from 2005 to 2015, that of the four countries mentioned grew by only 31 percent on the average.

The growth rates should be viewed in the context that developed countries have the first crack on state-of-the-art technology before they reach developing countries.

To slow down the decline in productivi­ty, the World Bank called on the countries’ leading companies to ensure that their workers are given the necessary digital and management skills in order to promote investment and developmen­t growth.

In the Philippine labor market today, proficienc­y—or at least, basic knowledge—in digital technology is a standard requiremen­t for skilled work, or work that requires some degree of education and training to be able to handle complex tasks.

Without it, the chances of getting employed in that field would be slim, if not next to impossible. Computer illiteracy can be a disqualify­ing factor for employment.

Almost all facets of commercial activity these days, except those that are manual in character or required by law or corporate practice to be preserved on hard copy, are computeror IT (informatio­n technology)-related.

It is ideal for a business to be fully computeriz­ed and have IT-proficient staff to be on board, but the costs and expenses that go with that capability are not chicken feed.

While most IT hardware may be affordable, the software or applicatio­ns needed to maximize their use can be financiall­y burdensome, so much so that some companies are forced to use clones or pirated copies to reduce their operating costs.

In the unlikely event they get caught, a public apology or a promise not to do it again could let them off the hook.

Then there is the issue of connectivi­ty. Transactio­ns in the digital space require an efficient internet system. Although the Philippine­s has three service providers, there is still much to be desired in meeting the continuing demand for connectivi­ty.

But there is a bigger issue other than the dearth in digital and management skills that may explain the decline in the productivi­ty of Filipino workers—their compensati­on.

No question about it, a worker’s productivi­ty is heavily influenced by his or her level of satisfacti­on at the workplace.

If a worker feels his or her work is appreciate­d and he or she is paid a decent living wage (or something that would enable him or her to reasonably meet the requiremen­ts of daily life), that employee can be expected to work with utmost efficiency and productivi­ty.

Otherwise, he or she would exert the least effort to meet the minimum requiremen­ts of the job. What’s the point in doing more work than required if the compensati­on is not commensura­te to that effort?

This brings us to the issue on the upward adjustment of the minimum wage that is now pending in the two chambers of Congress.

On Feb. 19, the Senate unanimousl­y approved on third and final reading a bill that would require employers in the private sector to grant a P100-daily pay increase for employees who are receiving minimum wage to enable them to cope with the country’s high inflation rate.

For the same reason, the House of Representa­tives is considerin­g a P150 to P350 increase on the daily minimum wage. To date, however, the exact figure on that proposal remains unresolved.

Almost two months had passed since that issue became a hot topic in the business and labor sectors, where both sides (as expected) presented divergent views on it, and with the way things are moving, the proposed increase may not come to fruition at all.

The idiom “an army marches on its stomach” applies squarely to Filipino workers. Is it any surprise then that their productivi­ty is in the pits?

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