Sunday, August 19, 2007

Hard Work for Pennies

“Don’t waste life in doubts and fears; spend yourself on the work before you, well assured that the right performance of this hour’s duties will be the best preparation for the hours and ages that will follow it.”

--- Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have no doubt that the great Emerson was partly referring to psychological rewards for the common diligent worker. I think though that he was also referring to financial preparation for retirement and old age.

I suppose if you are diligent enough, you will be able to harvest your just rewards. In the Philippines though, diligence is simply not sufficient. You would also have to be blessed with an entrepreneurial spirit to help you make old age comfortable. For those who don’t know the difference between the stock market and the wet market, the future can be dim.

Take for example a former colleague who retired two years ago at the age of 60. She had been a teacher for thirty years and worked five days a week for twelve hours a day or more. She received a staggering P100,000 ($2,139) for her three decades of service. She definitely was not a delinquent but even a lifetime of honest work earned her less than what most political thieves earn in a day.

She’s not the only one who has a bleak future ahead of her. Young professionals who have no aptitude for business and have no desire to wipe the asses of foreign patients abroad have to prepare for their future with measly incomes that can barely tide over the day’s needs. Cities outside of the capital offer young professionals at the staff level an average income of P7,000-P10,000 ($150-$214) a month for 24-26 days of work for eight hours a day. Upscale offices offer a little more at around P15,000 ($321) a month for the same amount of work. Of course, first time employees would be lucky if they receive the mandated basic salary. I know a nurse who earns a mere P150 ($3.21) for an 8 hour work day.

The only way to prepare for old age is to find your way to one of the multi national companies that offer high salaries and numerous benefits. In my province, there are only about four companies that fall under this category and only one of them is hiring 10-20 people every year until they stop hiring in 2010. That can hardly help the thousands of graduates every year and the approximately 100,000 or so unemployed in my province and the surrounding regions.

Now how exactly can mere hard work in the Philippines prepare for the hours and ages that will follow the twilight of a worker’s best years?

1 comment:

  1. To think I just realized my greatest dream is to teach... Whatever. I refuse to join the 600+ students back home who are preparing to leave the country. But what will happen to those who opt to stay?


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