By Samuel P. Medenilla, March 28 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to Business Mirror

THE government continues to struggle in protecting its informal workers as it remains “statistically blind” to their exact numbers.

The Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns (BWSC) lamented the country is currently among the last two member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), together with Malaysia, without any formal statistical indicator for informal sector workers.

By next year, BWSC representative Cyrus Policarpio said the Philippines may be the only one left since Malaysia is targeting to include informal sector workers in its statistics in 2020.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) was able to conduct an Informal Sector Survey (ISS) in 2008 specifically to measure the number of informal sector workers.

However, the study, which relied on United Nations funding and used broad sectoral classifications of PSA, was no longer repeated.

PSA typically estimates the number of informal sector workers in the country using data of self-employed workers and unpaid family workers from its regular Labor Force Survey.

As of 2017, the agency estimates the number of self-employed workers nationwide is around 14.3 million, or around 35.1 percent of the 40.83 million work force for that period.

BWSC said the PSA’s use of a “proxy” indicator to measure informal sector workers has significant limitations since it treats all self-employed as members of the informal sector.  For international standards, he said, self-employed workers are not included in the informal sector if their business is registered with the government.

“Currently, PSA does not make this distinction,” Policarpio said.  He said the PSA system for informal sector workers also does not aggregate workers from new kinds of sectors like the home-based online workers, and Transport Network Vehicle Services (TNVs).

Without any specific statistical indicator for informal sector workers, the PSA, according to Bureau of Local Employment (BLE) Director Dominique R. Tutay, runs the risk of not accurately measuring their numbers.

She stressed the importance of coming up with accurate numbers of informal workers so it could lead to more effective government programs for them.  “This is necessary for policy decisions and programming purposes so that you will be able to determine the actual needs of these type of workers in the labor market, or what type of assistance can the government extend to them,” Tutay said.

BWSC said it already got the go-ahead from Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III to start drafting the recommendation, which they will be submitting to the PSA to finally set a specific indicator in its regular surveys for informal sector workers.

BWSC Director Ma. Karina Perida-Trayvilla said data from the survey will allow them to update the provisions on the proposed bill on the Magna Carta for Workers in the Informal Economy (Macwie).