The 2015 UN Human Development Report (HDR), launched in Manila on January 18, calls our attention to the glaring disparities in growth and access to work in Asia and the Pacific.
And it’s not just having work but the quality of the work, including the conditions and pay.
As Selim Jahan, lead author of the HDR, points out, “Asia and the Pacific…has the largest numbers of people trapped in dangerous and demeaning work including forced labor, trafficking and child labor.”
Asia and the Pacific also accounts for the “largest number of forced laborers in the work.”
How does the Philippines fare in this regard?
Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan reported during the launch that the proportion of the unemployed dropped to a “10-year record low of 5.6%,” mainly boosted by the services and industry sectors. Still, he acknowledged that providing decent work, achieving higher productivity rates and reducing the number of working poor are key challenges.
The HDR looks at work as central in human development, a means to reduce inequality. In this, the Philippines has a long road ahead.
Only a few own most of the wealth in the country. Academics have pointed out that “many of our billionaires led by top three taipans Henry Sy, John Gokongwei, Jr. and Enrique Razon find their wealth growing even faster than the entire economy.”
We are not an isolated case. In fact, inequality is a worldwide phenomenon with the “top 1 percent of the global population owning more than 50% of global wealth,” Jahan says, “and 80% of the world’s population owning only 6%.”
Reports such as the HDR put people as the focus of development and measure progress beyond the GDP: in health (life expectancy), knowledge, and income. The 2015 HDR shows a “slight improvement in human development” in the Philippines and at a “slow pace,” remarked Fernando Aldaba of the Philippine Human Development Network. Much more needs to be done.
The HDR comes at an important time in Philippine politics, as we prepare to vote for our new leaders. We expect the presidential candidates and their teams to use this report and consider its policy proposals for institutional reforms and more equitable access to services.
Each candidate may have his or her pet issue like criminality and corruption. But inequality is overarching and, while maybe difficult to reduce to catchy sound bites, it is a thread that runs through our problems.
We encourage voters to ask the candidates questions on these big, pressing issues. Let’s make these part of our campaign discourse. – Rappler.com