Villanueva: Decent work statistics

THE Philippine Statistics Office (PSA) recently released information about Decent Work in the Philippines. It caught my attention because honestly, it was my first time to hear about statistics on decent work.

Apparently, the International Labor Organization (ILO) adopted a framework of Decent Work Indicators in 2008 after these was presented in the International Conference of Labor Statisticians. This is of course in relation to the advocacy of the ILO to promote the Decent Work Agenda.

Decent work is described as integral efforts to reduce poverty and is a key mechanism for achieving equitable, inclusive and equitable development. It involves opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, provides security in the workplace and social protection for workers and their families, and gives people the freedom to express their concerns, to organize and to participate in decisions that affect their lives (ILO, 2012).

The four pillars of the Decent Work Agenda are employment creation, social protection, rights at work and social dialogue. Decent work and the four pillars of the agenda became integral elements of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals, calling for the promotion of sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all (ILO, 2015).

The statistical measurement framework of decent work covers ten (10) substantive elements including employment opportunities, adequate earnings and productive work, decent hours, combining work, family and personal life, work that should be abolished, stability and security of work, equal opportunity and treatment in employment, safe work environment, social security, and social dialogue (ILO, 2012).

The PSA has only released part 1 of a series of three parts, however, I saw it necessary to already write about it because of the glaring data that they have presented so far.

In Economics, one is considered gainfully employed when you are employed and working for forty (40) hours per week. When one works for more than forty-eight (48) hours, that is considered excessive, as this may interfere in the work-life balance of the workers. Basically, in parlance, we may call them, “overworked.”

The Labor-Leisure Trade-off Model explains that whatever time that are not devoted for working (labor) are devoted for leisure. Of course, leisure in this context is not only having vacation or having a fun time, but more described as time used not working.

Choosing to have leisure time also has its price. Therefore, if one chooses to have leisure time, he/she is foregoing the income that may be derived while working. In the same way, if one chooses to work, he/she is foregoing the reward/incentive that may be derived from leisure.

In 2015, based on the PSA data, 8.1 million are working for more than 28 hours per week, representing a 41.2% increase from the 1995 data. More than half or 54% are accounted to men, a drop from 59% in 1995. While the recorded 46% for women was an increase from the 41% in 1995. This would mean that there are more women now spending excessing hours in their jobs.

The services sector registered the highest number of workers who are working excessive hours at 80% of the total. The services sector include those who belong to the transport and communications sector, the financial services sector, real estate and renting businesses, public administration and defense, and the like.

So, is the number of overworked people substantial compared to the total labor force?

Well, based on the 2016 estimates, the labor force is 68.1 million, and the labor participation rate is 63%, that is around, 43.1 million. The employment rate is 94.5%, that is roughly, 40.8 million. Therefore, the 8.1 million overworked people comprise 20% of the total employed persons in the country.

That is substantial.

Cognizant to this reality, it may be good to remind the business owners to look at their human resources as assets, rather than costs. As much as I understand that the primary goal of the firm is to maximize profit by minimizing cost, but when they consider their people as assets, whatever investments we spend on them will have a return on investment. People will become more motivated, will have a sense of loyalty and love for the company, and so will be more productive stakeholders of the firm.

On the other hand, for people, inasmuch as it is important to make money or earn income to put food on the table, trading off the rewards or incentives of spending quality time for yourself and your family is also to a certain extent undesirable. One needs to rest and recuperate from the day’s work.

At the end of the day, we can ask ourselves, “If we are working hard to make a living, would still matter if we die from overworking?”

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