NOT so much to disagree with them (in more ways than one they are actually right) as to put the Covid-19 issue in context, I am firing these questions up at government critics: So, what are you suggesting? Change the government? How? Who? Have we ever had a clean and competent government before?
We’ve never had a problem of such frightening ramifications as this one. A recent survey shows that 4.2 million Filipinos can no longer afford to eat. This has to be an understatement because another survey shows a 17.7 percent unemployment rate (about 20 million warm bodies) as of April 2020. Families of the jobless are now or will soon be suffering from hunger when their savings, not much if any for minimum wage earners, run out.
How soon and how many businesses will open at what percent of their pre-pandemic capacities and how many of their workers can they take back in? How soon will OFW’s, our erstwhile heroes, be able to go back to their work abroad and resume shoring up our badly shaken economy? It’s anybody’s guess; meanwhile the problem mounts.
Our worker problem alone (farmer problem is another) is staggeringly huge and heart-rending. If previous governments could not solve the unemployment problem before the pandemic, how can this government be expected to solve it when it is now bigger yet local and foreign workplaces are unable to operate?
It will have to take the concerted effort of business, government, and civil society to address it. Even then this concerted effort can only be realistically expected to mitigate but not erase the problem.
Yet, even if somehow the concerted effort of society made a big enough dent on the problem, it is still no guarantee the quality of life of ordinary workers will go up a notch higher. It is not unlikely that business will use Covid-19 losses as an excuse to peg minimum wages at existing low levels or, God forbid, even reduce them.
In the short run, all we could do might be to make businesses recover so these can rehire workers. But in the long run, the goal should be to improve the quality of life of our workers. This can absolutely not happen with minimum wages. New modes of compensation have to be tried.
One way is for employers to bring their life-style a notch lower so the quality of life of workers go that much higher by sharing profits with the latter. Exclusive ownership is a capitalist invention. Sharing is fundamentally human and Christian.
What causes hunger in the world is human greed. Until we learn the deeply human and Christian virtue of sharing, a life of poverty awaits many Filipinos. In a greedy world, this idea, I know, is a stab in the dark; but then I’d much rather “light a candle than curse the darkness.”