In celebration of Labor Day on May 1, the Associated Labor Unions (ALU)-Associated Philippine Seafarers Union (APSU) Youth called on national leaders to protect young workers who have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Young workers aged 15-34 made up 45% of the Philippines’ labor force in 2019. They are employed in wholesale and retail trade, accommodation and food service activities, construction, and transportation and storage. These are sectors hardest hit by the pandemic.
One out of six young people in the world has stopped working since the start of the COVID-19 crisis according to the International Labour Organization in May 2020. In April 2020, the Philippines reached its highest unemployment rate of 17.7%, of which 60% were young workers.
ALU Southern Mindanao Region Education and Information Officer, Melba Tampakan said “young workers are the first to experience job insecurity, income reduction or loss, and precarious work arrangements. The pandemic also disrupted education and training.”
ALU National Education and Information Officer Geraldine Grace Hoggang added that these impacts on young workers also affected their mental well-being.
“The fear of contracting the virus, work-life imbalance caused by new work arrangements, and economic losses have caused stress and anxiety among young workers, affecting their mental well-being. Young workers are also more vulnerable to violence and harassment,” Hoggang said.
The young workers five-point call were for the government to:
1. Preserve employment and create new jobs especially those that respond to the public health crisis; ensure just transition to a green economy; and expand opportunities in science and technology, engineering, math, and other fields that address the impacts of Industry 4.0.
2. Enforce labor standards especially on wages and wage-related benefits, safety and health, social protection, and uphold rights to organize and collective bargaining to protect workers, especially young workers against exploitation, unsafe work conditions, unfair labor practices, and red-tagging.
3. Effectively prevent, detect, isolate, treat, and control COVID-19 infections; and address the challenges in the country’s medical and health systems and infrastructures to save lives and for the economy to recover.
4. Include young workers’ representation in decision-making structures and processes, including in COVID-19 response and recovery planning, monitoring, and evaluation.
5. Promote gender equality and end gender-based violence by ratifying the ILO Convention 190.
Aside from calling on leaders, APSU Industrial Relations Officer Mark Angelo Tolentino also reminded that young workers should also organize into unions which would help them protect their rights.
“We call on employers, managers and government officials to heed and act on these demands for a better normal. More importantly, we call on our fellow young workers to unite and stand up. Join the trade union movement and amplify young workers’ issues and influence change,” Tolentino said.