DEPARTMENT of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Assistant Secretary Ma. Antoinette Allones challenged Thomasians to practice the ideals of Pope Leo XIII in easing labor tensions in the country and promoting good working environment.

Allones stressed the importance of justice, respect, and Christian morality in the labor sector during the 9th Pope Leo XIII Lecture entitled “Rerum Novarum in the Context of the Current Labor Situation in the Philippines” at the Medicine Auditorium last Jan. 17.

Rerum Novarum was an encyclical issued by Pope Leo XIII on May 14, 1891 that established the stand of the Church on the worsening labor condition during the Industrial Revolution. The encyclical says that the true remedy to the labor problems lies in the combined action of the State, the Church, the employer, and the worker.

Allones said the present labor conditions in the country reflect the era when Rerum Novarum was released. The economy continues to be astir even as new technologies are introduced, thus lessening the demand for skilled workers.

In the encyclical, Pope Leo XIII set out the principles that would govern industrial realtions. These include respect of the dignity of laborers, observance of Christian morality, and continuing dialogue between the employer and the workers.

Allones also updated the audience on the employment condition of the country. She said there were 823,000 new jobs generated last year. Also, the wage and salaried workers numbered 14.9 million and the number of agriculture workers rose to 11.1 million. In addition, the country now has 34 million laborers, excluding overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

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Last year, a total number of 886,889 Filipinos were sent overseas. During the first five months of the same year, remittances from the OFWs amounted to $ 4.2 billion.

However, the rise in employment is checked by the increase in the unemployment rate. The unemployment rate in the country is 11.2 per cent–the highest in Southeast Asia. Allones pointed out that the high unemployment rate is due to the decreasing demand for skilled workers.

She said that DOLE is determining the skills needed in the country’s labor sector within the next 10 years. This study would later be the basis of a program that would help students choose courses in college to reduce non-employment and underemployment.

Allones added that the rise of the informal sector also contributes to the increasing unemployment rate. The informal sector includes the individuals who work and single-handedly operate their businesses. These individuals range from sidewalk vendors to sari-sari storeowners.

Despite its rise, she said that the informal sector is also hounded by problems. Philippine laws do not protect this sector. However, DOLE is currently working on a project alongside with the Social Security System to set up an emergency assistance program for the informal sector. Billy Joe I. Allardo

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