Anton Diaz of Our Awesome Planet must have a different idea of what Labor Day is like for millions of Filipinos across the country.
Given Diaz' global audience, I'd probably be right in thinking that he sends out his happy greetings to laborers in countries where their wages actually allow them to live a decent and comfortable life.
But in the Philippines, greeting laborers "Happy Labor Day" is somewhat odd and out of place -- to say the least.
Despite the various laws in place that are supposed to uplift their standard of living, protect their rights and promote their welfare, Filipino laborers are among the most exploited and abused in the world.
Let's start with one of the more obvious gripes of the common Filipino laborer -- wages.
The minimum wage for agriculture and non-agriculture workers for National Capital Region is P389 to P426 (or about 9 to 10 dollars) a day, which is probably the highest wage level set for a region in the country.
Perhaps the gripe starts from the idea that the minimum wage of a laborer is hardly enough to provide for the basic needs of his family -- food, shelter, clothes. Never mind health insurance and medicines, a pension fund, housing fund, or any of the other things that laborers in more developed countries enjoy as part of their basic compensation package.
The Filipino laborer's wages are even smaller if you subtract what he has to spend everyday just to get to work and this can be easily somewhere between P30 to P50 a day. This whittles down his actual pay to around P330 to P375 a day.
Assuming the laborer has a spouse who is not working and just two children, keeping his entire family well fed three times a day is going to be tough. Let's assume that the laborer just spends P150 for three meals a day. This will further take out a sizeable chunk of his wages and reduce it further to P180 to P225.
Assuming he works 20 days a month, he'll have about P3,600 to P4,500.
Shelter is a monthly expense and if a laborer rents a room within 8 kilometers of his work site, that'll set him back by around 1,500 a month. If he has electrical appliances (probably a fan and a radio), his electric bill may be around P300 a month. Water bills may be at the same level. Total monthly expenses will total around P2,100 a month.
This should leave him around P1,500 to P2,400, which actually looks good -- if you assume that the laborer gets paid the right wages. The reality is that he doesn't.
Employers in Metro Manila often pay much lower wages, often exploiting exceptions and this can mean actual daily wages may be around P300 to P350 a day.
Recomputing everything at this wage level, results in a month income of P6,000 to P7,000 a month.
Minus 1,000 Daily Work Expenses
Minus 1,500 Rent
Minus 3,000 Family Meals
Minus 600 Utilities
P6,100 TOTAL EXPENSES
At a Monthly Income of 7,000, the laborer may still have around P900 to spare. At 6,000 a month, he'd be in the red by P100 a month.
Of course, this assumes he does work 20 days a month all throughout the year. However, the reality is that most laborers do not work all months in the year.
This also doesn't factor in sick days or medical expenses.