National Conference of Employers

(Speech delivered by this writer during the ECOP’s 43rd National Conference of Employers on 24 August 2022)
Today life is turbulent, volatile, chaotic, certainly complex, and full of uncertainties and ambiguities. Covid-19 exposed our many vulnerabilities beyond health issues. It was confusion and worse confounded as authorities experimentally applied a military solution of lockdown which nearly crippled our economy to solve this pharmaceutical problem.

And just as the pandemic was almost halted by the massive vaccine rollout, the war in Ukraine erupted which has burdened us even more. The supply chain was disrupted and inflationary pressure was inflicted on all economies. No country has been spared from the damaging economic impact of these two calamities. This is the ugly result of globalization where all countries are highly connected and interdependent.

Moreover, there is an increasing polarization on many fronts as we try to cope with the challenging and extraordinary times when a new world order takes shape, only to be reshaped yet again by disturbing global events.

Yes, our polarized world is fragmented due to contradicting ideologies, the left vs the right, democracy vs communism, divergence in race, religion, education, and many others. But socio-economic polarization is an increasing and greater concern for all of us as it cuts across all societies regardless of political, race, or religious affiliations.

All this is made even more complicated by what Tom Friedman calls the “three great accelerations; globalization, climate change, and the exponential growth of technology.

There is an escalating resentment among people across countries and within societies from the widening gap between the rich and the poor, rising social and economic inequality, declining confidence in established institutions, the destructive effect of climate change, and economic dislocation to mention a few. Economic displacement begins with the loss of employment, income, and the sense of belonging, and with that, the loss of purpose of the individual and his diminished self-worth for failure to contribute something valuable to his family and society.

Related to this, there is growing anxiety about the impact of technological change on jobs and the constant shifts in the structure of industries. The nature of work is rapidly altering from the dynamic advances in digital technology, smart machines, and artificial intelligence. New jobs are created while other traditional routine-based or repetitive jobs are declining or disappearing. Even non-routine cognitive tasks are not spared given the developments of new algorithms for big data with capabilities for pattern recognition. All told, the world of work is turned upside down.

Interestingly, however, the same technological advances also strengthen and support the employment of a different type such as the growth of the gig economy which is reshaping the traditional concept of work.

All these and more characterize the environment in which we live and work today. This is the new reality where new jobs will continue displacing the old, unabated.
We need to reimage the future of jobs in the midst of this evolving workplace setting. We need to reform antiquated regulations and craft relevant policies and action items to help promote and sustain employment in the new world of work.

We need as well to revisit many policies to rethink our existing investment incentives in the transformation of traditional jobs through mentoring in digital skills, data analytics, and information technology. Human capital investment is a cost-effective strategy that will support inclusiveness and yield long-term socio-economic dividends.

Labor policy reforms in particular are critical in our transition to the new unfamiliar order with the new employment compact such as work from home and remote or flexible time arrangements. Businesses must adapt to compete for talent with the noticeable shift in employees’ preference for work flexibility, mobility, and greater autonomy given the inefficient transport infrastructure in the country.

We call on the government to join us in our discussion on the need for stronger social protection for our workers, especially for those who have been displaced or undergoing job transition. But it is equally imperative that similar safety nets be extended to job creators, the business owners, mainly MSMEs, suffering from the serial lockdowns, economic contraction, and shock from natural and man-made calamities.

Above and beyond all these, to address unemployment and inequality we must promote an investment-led economic growth that will enhance, strengthen and expand the various platform pillars like digital infrastructure, transport, communication, and energy, among others.

I enjoin everyone to listen intently to the views and experiences of our tripartite partners, our resource speakers, and our conference participants, and actively engage in the discussions to finally reach our collective policy recommendations for the benefit of all.

All these and much more will be launched in our two-day conference, leading to the final adoption of our conference resolutions to serve as inputs for the new administration.

In closing, I wish all of you a most productive and informative conference.

Maraming salamat po!

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