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IBON — Php238 NCR wage hike doable without worsening inflation

As the Metro Manila regional wage board deliberates a minimum wage hike for later this month, research group IBON said that a much-needed Php238 minimum wage increase is possible and need not be inflationary.

Millions of Filipino workers including in the National Capital Region (NCR) are burdened by high prices of goods and services.

The group said that the wage hike is possible and will not be inflationary if only companies are willing to take a small cut in their profits.

The government can meanwhile support smaller establishments to be able to afford the wage increase.

The purchasing power of poor and middle income households in NCR is eroding due to high inflation this year on top of the accumulated erosion from inflation in previous years.

At the national level, IBON estimates that the country’s poorest 14 million households have already lost anywhere from Php1,800 to Php4,725 cumulatively from January to September this year because of inflation.

The erosion in purchasing power in NCR is likely to be even greater. Monthly inflation in the first nine months of the year averages 5.0 percent nationwide but is higher at 5.6% percent in NCR.

IBON said that NCR firms have more than enough profits to support a Php238 minimum wage hike.

The latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) Annual Survey of Philippine Business and Industry (ASPBI) reports that NCR firms (with 20 and over employees) had combined profits of Php903 billion in 2015 while giving an average daily basic pay (ADBP) of Php530.

Using ADBP as a proxy for workers’ wages, raising the NCR minimum wage to Php750 and ensuring that workers get this will cost just Php132 billion which is just 14.6 percent of their profits.

In effect, NCR firms can pay the Php750 minimum wage and not have to pass this on to consumers as higher prices if they accept a slight cut in their profits.

Large corporations can readily give this substantial wage hike, said the group, but government should ensure assistance to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) so that they can afford this.

This can come in the form of tax breaks and incentives, cheap credit, subsidized fuel and utilities, and technology and marketing support, among others.

IBON added that the large wage hike is also justified by growing worker productivity.

Between 2009 and 2017, labor productivity in NCR grew by 35 percent from Php456,059 per worker to Php614,297.

However, that same period, the real value of the mandated minimum wage only increased by 11 percent and of ADBP by 16 percent, both measured in real terms at constant 2012 prices.

This implies that a large part of productivity gains go to employers as profits rather than to workers as higher wages.

IBON stressed that it is more urgent than ever in these times of economic crisis for the government to ensure the poorest working class Filipinos do not suffer needlessly and for those with the capacity to adjust, such as enterprises and the wealthy, to contribute to a more equitable economy. #

Php750 minimum wage possible, non-inflationary and good for the economy–​IBON​

Contrary to government and big employers’ claims, research group IBON said that raising minimum wages nationwide to Php750 is doable, need not spike prices further, and will benefit millions of Filipino workers and the economy.

The group cited the following reasons:

  1. Raising minimum wages nationwide to Php750 is doable if owners of establishments allow a small portion of their profits to go to their workers instead.

    Firms and the economy as a whole have more than enough profits to support this.

    Data from the 2015 Annual Survey of Philippine Business and Industry (ASPBI) of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) shows that the 34,740 establishments employing 20 or more have Php1.7 trillion in total profits and 4.5 million employees.

    Raising the average daily basic pay of wage and salary workers from the nationwide average of Php378.71 to Php750 transfers just Php473.2 billion to workers’ pockets, which is only a 28.3 percent decrease in profits.

    Workers will meanwhile get to take home an additional Php8,076 per month on average.

    This still falls short of the family living wage and does not necessarily bring everyone up to a decent standard of living but such an increase will provide immediate relief to millions of Filipino workers and their families.

  2. Raising minimum wages nationwide to Php750 will not necessarily hike inflation. Prices need not go up and workers need not be laid off if employers accept the slight cut in profits.

  3. As it is, wages are not even keeping up with the rising productivity of workers so their ever-growing contribution to the economy increases employer profits more than improves workers’ welfare. For instance, according to the Labor Productivity Statistics of the PSA, the contribution of each worker to total gross domestic product (GDP) increased from Php196,179 in 2015 to Php198,215 in 2016 (up by 2.2 percent). This means that the average daily contribution of each worker to the economy amounts to some Php759.44 per day, which is more than double the average daily basic pay and more than the proposed national minimum wage.

  4. The economy will also benefit by increasing workers’ purchasing power and aggregate demand which stimulates higher production and increases economic activity. Raising minimum wages nationwide also reduces inequality by transferring wealth overly concentrated in a few to millions of workers and their families.

According to IBON, the country’s largest corporations and the wealthiest families owning these can easily absorb the substantial wage hike.

Smaller producers in micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) will also be able to afford the wage hike with government support such as immediately providing cheap and easy credit, giving marketing support, nurturing locally-integrated supply chains, and improving their scientific and technological capabilities.

MSMEs will also benefit from increased worker demand for their goods and services in the domestic market, said the group. #

Substantial wage hike urgent, gov’t told

Research group IBON said that the government’s recently announced plan to respond to labor’s clamor for an increase in the minimum wage is welcome but underscored that this move is urgent amid rising prices.

The group said that the hike should be meaningful enough to keep up with accelerating inflation and worsening poverty.

Amid the three-year-high first quarter inflation, widely perceived to be caused by the government’s Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) among other factors, and labor’s demand for a wage hike, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said that a wage increase is coming up within the month.

According to IBON, it is urgent for government to ensure the legislation of a minimum wage hike that is sufficient for the working people to cope with the rising cost of goods and services.

Recent price spikes have been brought about by government’s own market-oriented policies such as the oil deregulation and tax reform laws that press prices up while wages remain low.

The group however stressed that the wage increase should be substantial, as the recent inflation rate will only continue to erode a paltry increase.

IBON explained that despite the last increase of Php21 in October 2017, which raised the National Capital Region (NCR) minimum wage to Php512 from Php491 per day, the real value has eroded by Php16.25 from Php464.19 in October 2017 to Php447.94 as of April 2018.

IBON also noted that the TRAIN has inflicted a heavy blow on the workers’ purchasing power as the real value of the NCR minimum wage lost a significant Php18.79 since the Duterte administration took office in July 2016.

According to IBON, initially increasing the minimum wage nationwide to at least Php750 as recently proposed by progressive lawmakers is the more practical measure.

This will allow wage earners to cope with inflation and increase their purchasing capacity.

It will also help bridge the gap between the nominal minimum wage and the family living wage (FLW) of Php1,173.14 in the NCR, for instance, as of April 2018 computed by IBON.

While the amount still falls short of the FLW, a Php750 minimum wage can be an initial important step towards increased economic activity and more vibrant economic growth that shall ensure a more stable price situation, said the group. #