Briones: It’s not always cheaper in the boondocks

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Briones: It’s not always cheaper in the boondocks

People living in the National Capital Region (NCR) get paid higher. Considerably more, in fact, when you look at the minimum wage of workers in the non-agricultural sector. It ranges from P570 to P610.

Compare that to the salary of workers in, let’s say, Central Visayas. The minimum wage in the region ranges between P387 and P435. And I would assume that workers in Cebu would earn more compared to their counterparts in Bohol, Negros Oriental and Siquijor because Cebu is a much “richer” island.

But it gets worse for workers living in much “poorer” regions in the country. They get the short end of an already short stick.

So what is the rationale for this?

Well, they say everything costs more in the capital compared to the rest of the country. Hence, people living there have to earn more to be able to survive.

Sure, the farther away you are from an urban center prices are supposed to drop. That’s why, in the case of Metro Manila, people would put up with long commutes because rental prices as well as house prices are lower out there in the burbs.

I guess, people in the NCR can use that as an excuse to justify getting paid more.

But guess what? That doesn’t necessarily hold true.

You see, here in Cebu, and I’m talking from experience, it’s not always cheaper out there in the towns.

In fact, fish can be more expensive the farther you are away from the metro. I should know because that’s the case in Argao, my grandparents’ hometown, although admittedly pork and some vegetables cost less out there.

At any rate, the price of everything else is pretty much the same.

Don’t tell me a can of sardines costs less if you buy it in Cebu City than if you buy it in Quezon City. I think the same can be said of other grocery items. The prices are basically uniform nationwide.

And out there in the boondocks, prices can even be much higher.

Try buying a case of Red Horse in a mountain barangay in any town here in Cebu and you’ll be shocked to know that it’s considerably more than if you buy it in the poblacion.

So where am I going with this?

Recently, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Central Visayas chairman Jamie Paglinawan called on the government to abolish regional wage boards and argued for the establishment of a national minimum wage instead.

Paglinawan said there should be a national wage body to address the wage disparity in the country.

Although I see his point, there are other factors that need to be considered.

People in rural areas don’t have to contend with the trappings of modernity. There are no malls out there. No fancy restaurants. No clubs.

Sure, basic commodities may be slightly cheaper, but they have to pay an arm and a leg for “luxury” items.

I think that’s why regional wage boards are in place.

However, the current economic crunch is affecting everyone in the country, and not just people in urban areas.

The government needs to do something. Anything.


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