Consultant is the new title for contract worker


CONSULTANT’ is the more politically-correct title for “contractual worker” in the 21st century Philippine labor setting, CPM News, Asia has discovered.

It is a real designation, but not necessarily a real job.

A real job is defined as decent work with real pay that can feed, clothe, shelter, keep healthy, send to school, and afford leisure for yourself and your family. It is honorable and transferable to your next in line. With fringe benefits, some privileges, and much to take pride in, a real job is on a par with what the Joneses (or the Johns and Juans)  can splurge on, because the Juanas and Juanitas can definitely afford the quality of happiness, health, freedom and well-being that the Juans can provide for his family with his real job. “If the Johns can eat angus steak three times a day, 28 days a month, so can the Juans!,”  with the job that he is so proud about, so goes the exaggerated argumentation.  The Juanas, however, will not allow that, even though her family can very well afford the carnivorous lifestyle, because it is unhealthy for the children. The Juanitas prefer nutritious meals of vegetables, fruits, fish, seafood and chicken, with little beef and pork, and some sweet indulgences.

THE RATE of the real pay for the real job is illustrated by and through these Philippine expectations and realities brief.

In 1981, I researched, wrote and reported in the Seventies decade-ender edition of Philippines Daily Express Banking & Finance Section (an English daily broadsheet newspaper that then was in the league of today’s Inquirer, Star or Bulletin) the IBON Databank studies that revealed: “In order for a family of five to live a normal life, its household should be earning at least thirty thousand pesos a month.”

Real people’s pay in those days averaged from six thousand to twelve thousand pesos a month, or some eighteen thousand short of IBON’s expectations.

Thirty-two years after, I asked “Why do the rich become richer, and the poor, poorer?” in separate business reports I crafted in 2014 for Philippine Daily Inquirer and Philippine Star.

Back to the future, today, or some 35 years gone by, ordinary workers of modest means are paid with a measly ten thousand pesos a month (gross pay), more or less, for some real or unreal jobs. Less withholding tax, SSS or GSIS, Philhealth, PagIBIG and other contributions, union dues (if any), canteen bills and so on, regular workers’ take home pay (circa-21) will average five thousand pesos or less. When you get home, and your children and loved ones asked you for school tuition instalment payments, allowances, and so on, there will be no more money left for little entertainment and medical health and for the worker’s transportation allowances. You then borrow money from usurers (and from 5:6 and all) and your pay depletes even more onto the negative-zero balance, so to speak. It is a vicious cycle!

In the meantime, organized labor is fighting tooth and nail for the legislation of sixteen thousand pesos minimum wage (2016); to no avail.

Meanwhile, government brands you as not so poor if you earn a poverty threshold income of at least fifty pesos a day (Macapagal-Arroyo’s Department of Labor and Employment).  Fifty pesos is the usual daily “unliving” wage for service crews in small food stalls here, there and everywhere Metro Manila. Les miserables 50!

IT BECAME ironic, therefore, for many thinking Filipinos under the new dispensation to be fed with hopeful information (National Economic Development Authority, 2016) before Noynoy Aquino turned over his presidential powers to Duterte that concluded: “It will require one hundred thousand pesos a month gross income for a regular Filipino household to live, if not survive, what is hoped, dreamed and aspired for as an honorable and decent life in the Philippine homeland.” (Quotation in essence, mine). Hence, Pinoys thrive in foreign lands (Dubai, US, Canada,  Australia,  Europe, Singapore, Korea, Japan) for a good pay of 100K, double or more where they are also “somehow honored” with a modicum of quality living, as a matter of natural realistic course. They become our “hero” OCWs or overseas contract workers because they can endure all odds, outside of the land of their birth.  

Millions of Filipinos who are left behind in the Philippine homeland find themselves fighting and surviving with the little they are compensated with and remunerated for, by, and through some kind of “psychic income” (say, via nice-to-hear titles or designations, for instance).

In the House of Representatives, for example, not all consultants are consultants in the real sense.

Gone were the days when consultants were true blue professionals with high degrees and seasoned with extensive experience and expertise in what they advise their clients (and organizational entities, too) who were nonetheless exceptional in knowledge, talents, skills and all.

Anyone can be a consultant nowadays, for good reasons.

A welder who is hotshot in his welding field once said that “I can be a consultant to any governor, mayor or congressman,” in welding requirements of their constituencies.  His superior engineers were once considered the consultants for systems analysis and other expertise. I believed the welder.

In Congress, a novice computer repairman was, long time ago, designated a consultant (in IT), together with this and that messenger, clerk, driver and utility incharge – consultants all – of this and that House representatives.

The consulting IT repairman (and not a coder or programmer) joins the millions of rank-and-file workers in the factories and shopping malls of the Chinese taipans across the Archipelago who has been surviving life in the Philippines – which is a highly potential great dot-com in the world wide web map, nevertheless – with contracts of two months, three months, six months and ad infinitum of inequitable contractualization with no end in sight.  

But the new title of contract workers sounds good.

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