Abellanosa: Decent working conditions

Fringes and frontiers

THE International Labor Organization (ILO) defines "decent work" as one that "sums up the aspirations of people in their working lives." This, basically, elaborates the repeated philosophy behind labor: "man is his labor." Work is and should be dignified because it is the very expression of the human person's creativity. When work becomes alienating, it becomes a burden instead of a means for freedom.

It is not enough, therefore, for government to just content themselves with providing jobs. A more important question is, what kind of jobs do we have? Working in a plantation or a factory is a job but how is the worker treated? In short, is it a decent job?

Precisely, "decent working condition" isn't just about providing a weekly or monthly take home pay for the worker. It is, more importantly, about "enabling" the worker to experience more opportunities for growth. Thus, other than getting a "fair income," decent work is one that is protected (security of tenure) and respected. In fact, integral to it are the prospects for personal development and social integration.

There is a connection between decent work and integral well-being. Employment is supposed to address more so "reduce poverty." It is thus an irony if families would remain caught in the web of poverty despite heightened efforts of working.

The ILO, once more, highlights the matter: "decent work is integral to efforts to reduce poverty and is a key mechanism for achieving equitable, inclusive and sustainable 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."

Why do companies need to always review their policies towards work to ensure that the working condition remains decent? Apparently, the world is changing and this means that in more ways than one the humanity of man is either threatened or challenged. The level of decency of work should be regularly measured against these threats and challenges. It is shaped by various factors or variables such as pressure, demand and the changing levels of people's adaptability.

As machines get complicated and sophisticated, so do people's vulnerability to hazards. Human dynamics is also reconfigured because of social media and easier access to communication.

Added to this however are changing perspectives. Here we are talking about the increasing awareness of people about their rights. We cannot but highlight the importance of promoting non-discrimination. How companies should position themselves given their prerogatives is an important question to answer.

In the academia, for example, we have been hearing some demands by teachers for a review of their workloads especially those working in public schools. Good for some private schools that have internal and accreditation systems that would continually address this.

Unfortunately, not all schools are of the same standing. Still the challenge for schools to provide a decent work environment remains. They too have to evolve. This is true in light of the changing demands for output not just in terms of instruction but also with assessments and reports.

Innovation, for example, is an in-thing among educational institutions (OBE [outcome-based education] among universities). But if we require teachers to innovate, we should capacitate them in order to make them not only ready but also capable of innovating. This may mean reviewing their workloads and even the very spaces where they are asked to perform or create such innovations. And with this demand, schools have a serious challenge of convincing their teachers that there is a greater and better reason for staying in their work as a teacher.

The same is true with any company.


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