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Challenges with the coming ASEAN 2015.

ASEAN integration in 2015 will spur greater demand for both skilled and unskilled workers and help create up to 14 million additional jobs by 2025, says a joint study by the Asian Development Bank and the International Labour Organization (ILO). Some 3 million new jobs will be found in the Philippines.

However, the associated gains may not be distributed evenly and could result in deeper inequality. Because competition over talent will intensify and push wages upwards, workers who are high-skilled and well-educated will be in a better position to benefit -- a situation that could see millions of unskilled workers wage and welfare decline.

In the Philippines, laborers and unskilled workers in the labor force account for the biggest portion of the employed -- some 12.5 million or 32.3 percent as of April 2014. They are the ones compelled by circumstances to accept vulnerable, even informal, employment arrangements, characterized by lower wages and unsafe working conditions.

Filipino unskilled workers are also among the least productive in the world, according to a 2014 World Bank study. Mandatory annual minimum wage increases have not been accompanied by workers' increased productivity. World Bank economists point to decades of underinvestment in education and skills training as the culprit.

Several educational reforms have been introduced recently, including the Early Years Act, Universal Kindergarten Education Act and the Enhanced Basic Education Act (K to 12). Successive increases in the national budget for public education have been made. However, among ASEAN countries, the Philippines still holds the dubious distinction of having the highest proportion of children, at 11.3 percent, out of school.

Even more disturbing -- and a major cause of the high drop out rate -- is the fact that almost 37% of children five years and under are malnourished.

These are some of the challenges the nation faces on the eve of ASEAN 2015.

E-mail: angara.ed@gmail.com

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Title Annotation:Opinions and Editorials
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Sep 20, 2014
Words:315
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