Tasked as the policy research and advocacy arm of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) as articulated in Section 3 of DOLE Executive Order No. 251, the Institute for Labor Studies (ILS) reports that for 2016, it was able to produce researches anchored on Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre H. Bello’s 8-Point Labor and Employment Agenda, and aligned with the Department’s goal “to have responsive, enabling, and equitable labor policies, laws, and regulations.”
In support of DOLE’s thrust “to bring more focus and accessibility in worker’s protection and welfare programs,” the ILS has the following 2016 research:
· Portability of Social Security Benefits in the APEC Region
The research examines the portability of social security benefits within the contextual and operational frameworks of social security agreements as a significant means of harmonizing social protection, resulting to equality of treatment between origin and destination countries.
Based on the findings, the paper concludes that forging a bilateral or multilateral agreement with other countries is currently the best practice to achieve portability. The Social Security Agreement provides building blocks within countries for a more cohesive and prosperous region. The good news is that as the APEC region is composed of migrant sending and receiving countries, uniform treatment irrespective of countries of origin on rights and entitlements are practiced under all participating member-economies.
In the absence of conclusion of SSAs, the research recommended the following measures to ensure protection of migrant workers’ social security rights: 1) Advocate for the adoption of international treaties and conventions such as the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and their Families; 2) Support the implementation of Social Protection Floor Initiative and incorporate it into development strategies; 3) Increase cooperation between member-economies as exchange of information and sharing of expertise can also promote and protect the rights of migrant workers at each stage of their journey; 4) Engage a range of stakeholders, including government departments, labor recruitment agencies, trade unions, public and private sector employers and relevant non-government organizations in policy making processes; and 5) Collect and translate feedback to enhance services.
In support of DOLE’s thrust “to strengthen protection and security of our overseas Filipino workers,” the ILS has the following 2016 researches:
· Processing Overseas Employment Certificates: A Preliminary Impact Assessment
The research delves into the urgent concerns related to the issuance of OECs: (1) low number of personnel assigned in the processing and issuance of OECs; and (2) increased number (long queue) of OFWs requesting for OECs both at Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) and at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA). The research generally aims to identify possible policy options that would effectively, efficiently and immediately address the major concerns previously discussed.
One particular administrative and regulatory requirement in overseas employment specifically during the exit clearance stage is the issuance of an Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC). The OEC, issued by the POEA, is a certification of the “regularity of a worker’s recruitment and documentation and ensures exemption from travel tax and airport terminal fee” (Country Migration Report, 2013). As part of the process, it is presented at the POEA Labor Assistance Center and the Bureau of Immigration counter at the airports, prior to departure and serves as the worker’s guarantee that he/she is covered by government protection and benefits.
The research cites that while there may be systems in place undergoing continuous process improvements in the issuance of OECs, the number of staff remains unchanged and the number of requests constantly increases. Hence, the quality of service is likely to be affected and the health and work-life balance concerns of employees are compromised. OFWs on the other hand, experience long queue at the processing centers and finds the system bureaupathologic, especially when they are running out of time to process and complete documentary requirements. In view of these urgent concerns in the processing and issuance of OECs, this paper intends to identify policy options that are non-regulatory and/or semi-regulatory in nature proposing review of existing policies, guidelines, and implementing rules and regulations.
· Measuring Migration Costs of Filipino Migrants Worker Returnees from Saudi Arabia
The project involves a survey of 480 OFWs returnees from Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The results of the survey will be used for policy analysis and development affecting low-skilled labor migration, both temporary and permanent, and the facilitation of cross-border movements of low-skilled labor.
The research found out that even if prospective migrant workers know that they are paying high fees, they may not complain if they can get what they want: a foreign job offering wages higher than at home. In addition, most migrants borrowed money, which is equivalent to the cost of placement fees, and took loans from personal networks (i.e. family, relatives, friends) at minimal interest rates. Most repaid their loan through remittances—at more than 70% of their foreign earnings per month—to their families left at home.
It noted that learning more about worker-paid migration costs, and especially how they vary by migration corridor and worker level of skill, could contribute towards increasing the benefits of migration for the development of migrant-sending countries and enhancing migrant worker protection. Reducing worker-paid migration costs, especially for low-skilled migrants, also directly benefits workers and their families.
· Should I Stay or Should I Go Too: Understanding the Employment Aspirations and Migration Projections of Left Behind Children in the Philippines
The research tackled how prevalent overseas migration is in the Philippines, and how such a trend has lasted more than four decades by looking into globalization and its corresponding macro-processes.
The paper delved on the culture of migration and its pervasiveness in Philippine society. The study outlines the following: first, a great number of Filipinos, including children and youth, have migration aspirations. A survey of children aged 10-12 by Scalabrini Migration Center (2004) indicates that 43.7 per cent of the respondents had plans of working abroad. Furthermore, 60 per cent of the children of OFWs expressed desire to seek overseas employment.
Based on the paper’s findings, all interviewed children of migrants have internalized the reason behind their parents’ migration. The said children have also recognized that the quality of their lives, to a large extent, depended on the remittances from their parents. These children strove to do well in their studies as their education and career aspirations centered on the sacrifices of their parents.
In support of DOLE’s thrust “to have equitable labor policies, laws and regulations,” the ILS has the following 2016 researches:
· Gap Analysis of ILO Convention No. 81 (Labour Inspection)
The research has recommended addressing gaps in the country’s existing labor inspection system in order to fulfill the requirements under the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 81 on Labor Inspection, known as the international standard for labor inspection in industrial and commercial establishments.
Labor inspection in the Philippines is governed by the Labor Code, as amended, and provides the Secretary of Labor and Employment and authorized representatives with visitorial and enforcement powers to access the premises and records of an establishment to ensure compliance with labor laws and related issuances. However, the Philippines has not yet ratified ILO Convention No. 81, and instead observes compliance with general labor standards (GLS) and occupational safety and health standards (OSH) that are monitored using the Labor Laws Compliance System (LLCS). Using a gap analysis, the research assessed the extent to which the national laws, regulations and implementation practices are consistent with the said Convention.
Based on literature reviews and consultation with stakeholders, the existing laws and policies, while sufficient in principle for the Philippines to ratify the convention, have provisions that need improvement for the sustainable and efficient implementation of LLCS.
· Gap Analysis of ILO Convention No. 129 (Labour Inspection in Agriculture)
While Convention 81 sets out the basic international standards, Convention 129 acts as a supplemental instrument taking into account the special characteristics of the agriculture sector. Despite the strong call by the ILO for its Member Countries to ratify ILO Convention 129, the distinct characteristics of the sector poses a great challenge for the member countries to comply with the Convention.
Reforms in labor practices in the agriculture sector and ensuring that they are aligned with international standards are strongly being called for. The peculiar nature of work of those engaged in agricultural undertakings require special attention and calls for pragmatic, reasonable and sustainable activities that can be best identified through continued dialogue with experts, industry players, and other concerned government agencies. Addressing the challenges faced by agricultural workers would require constant dialogue and collaboration among stakeholders to ensure the rights of agricultural workers, while keeping in mind the capacity of the sector to comply with the requirements of the law.
Other recommendations include intervention at different levels, including policy, program and institutional components of the current inspection system.
The ILS 2016 researches will be presented during the 5th DOLE Research Conference on December 15-16, 2016, which continues to serve as a venue for researchers to highlight their research findings in contribution to evidence-based decision making across the Department.