Executive Director's Corner

Holidays are anti-poor

Posted on March 14, 2016 10:49:00 PM

Holidays are anti-poor

M. A. P. Insights
Rolando T. Dy

This country has just too many holidays for its level of development. There are national holidays (public, religious, and cultural) and local holidays (provincial, city, and towns).
I counted 17 official national holidays declared in 2015, excluding regional and local holidays. These exclude provincial and city holidays, plus the four-day Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) holidays in November. Malaysia had about 13 (excluding State-specific holidays), Indonesia 18, Thailand 17 and Vietnam 12. All these days excluded holidays declared on Saturday or Sunday.

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Why not? Our neighbors may have even more holidays. There are many buts.

Let us take at current Gross Domestic Product per head incomes in 2014 and latest national poverty incidence at national headcount (World Bank). Indonesia had $3,515 and poverty headcount of 11.4%, Malaysia $10,830 (1.7%), Philippines $2,843 (25.8%), Thailand $5,561 (12.6%), and Vietnam $2,052 (17.2 %).

The Philippines has no luxury of holidays given its low per capita income and very high poverty incidence. Holidays are incomes lost for the poor, daily workers.

Early this year, the American Chamber of Commerce cited that holidays are bane to business. It is undertaking a study.

In 2012, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) cited adverse effects on productivity, competitiveness, and workers’ pay. It is not keen on proposed laws that would add more non-working holidays. Furthermore, employers must pay 30% on top of an employees’ daily rate in the first eight hours during a non-working holiday. Higher rates apply if the employee goes on overtime.

In 2008, Mabuhay Radio claimed having too-many long weekends is bad for those eking out a marginal living on a day-to-day basis.

Do our leaders really bother what is the impact on the poor wage earners of “no work, no pay” status?

I had an epiphany of this dilemma when I talk to security guards and service workers in my job. Here are examples:

• During holidays, there are only 10 guards for the two 12-hour shifts, but 16 guards during regular days. This means the six guards loses P740 each a day. The wages lost is P4,440 a day.

• Food service workers. I counted about 10 food outlets with around 20 workers. Most earn a gross P470 a day that already includes food. The wages lost is about P9,400 a day.

• Food service outlets — Jollibee, KFC, McDonald’s, Pancake House — across the street also suffer. My conversation with a fast-food chain cashier said the outlet loses 30% of its daily sales during holidays. Deliveries to condominiums and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) firms help mitigate the losses. What if there are no condominiums in an area?

• Multipliers. What are not counted are the income losses of convenience stores, tricycle, jeepney and taxi drivers as well as suppliers to canteens.

An April 2015 Survey said that of the 39.2 million workers in the country, 22.6 million were wage and salary workers. Of these, 17.4M worked for private establishments, 3.2M for government, and 1.9M for private households. Job order employees in government are daily wage earners, too. (http://www.bles.dole.gov.ph/)

There is no available data on how many of these wage and salary workers are “dailies” but for the sake of argument that half of the workers in private sector worked for daily wage. There are 8.7M workers involved then.

Since April 2015, the DoLE Web site showed that the daily wage of non-agriculture workers range from P210 per day in Mimaropa to P250 per day in ARMM, and P444 to P481 per day in Metro Manila.

Assuming an average wage nationwide is P300 per day. One day lost means P2.6 billion per day lost in wages. If five holidays can be saved, that means some P13 billion out of the system. That excludes the direct multiplier in other sectors as most wages are spent.

Some food for thought:

First, combine celebrations of related holidays.

The six days are: People Power day (Feb. 25), Day of Valor or Bataan day (April 9), Benigno “Ninoy” S. Aquino, Jr. day (Aug. 21), National Heroes day (Aug. 30), Bonifacio Day (Nov. 30), and Rizal Day (Dec. 30). They can be combined into one as National Heroes Day. Five days can be saved.

With savings of five holidays, there is P13 billion gained for the pockets of the poor, or P1,500 per worker. This buys one sack of NFA rice.

Second, local holidays should exempt private sector workers. Let local government employees do the celebration. Again, the wages lost can run into millions depending on the size of the city or province.

The rich (maybe five million out of 100 million) and the middle class (maybe 20 million) can enjoy the holidays but the poor workers are likely to be mostly home bound, or in debt or that day lost. They cannot afford “holiday-nomics.”

Government policy makers may not realize it, but too many holidays hurt the poor. Holidays are for the elite and middle class, not the poor.

(The article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or the M.A.P.)

Rolando T. Dy is the Vice-Chair of the M.A.P. AgriBusiness and Countryside Development Committee, and the Executive Director of the Center for Food and AgriBusiness of the University of Asia & the Pacific.

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