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April 23, 2015

Editorial: Helping new Graduates

THERE’S really no shortage of initiative in self-promotion. For some politicians, the recent culmination of the school year has been a good excuse to display tarpaulins that congratulate the new graduates.
The expressed sentiment might approximate the sincere if not for some quirks. 
Politicians show their faces prominently in these displays, a feature that distracts and detracts from the intended emphasis on the accomplishments of the graduates and their parents.
A second question raised by the congratulatory tarpaulins concerns getting the most use from public funds. What will help graduates: thinly veiled political ploys at self-promotion or programs providing graduates with incentives and social benefits while they are looking for work?
Passing privileges
Even before graduation, Carlos started applying for membership with the Social Security System (SSS), PhilHealth, and Home Development Mutual Fund (PAG-IBIG). 
Despite this head start, he still had to secure other requisites for applying for a job. Fees had to be paid to secure his birth certificate, tax identification number (TIN), community tax certificate, and clearances from the barangay and the National Bureau of Investigation.
When added to the other costs of looking for a job—printing and reproducing resumes and portfolios, being presentable for interviews, and setting aside funds for commuting and applying online—Carlos and thousands of other graduates need more substantial support from the government and other stakeholders to avoid swelling further the ranks of the unemployed.
Senate Bill (SB) 59 seeks to push a Bill of Rights to help graduates. Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara drafted the proposed Bill of Rights to grant graduates assistance for one year after the date of graduation, reported The Philippine Star last April 15.
Among the incentives and social benefits covered by SB 59 is exemption from monthly contributions to the SSS, PhilHealth and PAG-IBIG for one year after graduation; exemption from fees required for the birth certificate, passport, TIN and pre-employment clearances; exemption from fees and charges for business and other permits; exemption from the civil service eligibility examination for the top 10 percent of their college batch for those seeking government employment; and discounts on transportation fees, exemption from travel tax and airport terminal fees within one year from date of graduation.
Another proposal to help graduates is making the Public Employment Service Office (PESO) in cities and municipalities serve graduates as a one-stop shop for securing the required public documents for job application. SB 59 also proposes that PESOs issue a new graduate’s incentive card, which, among other privileges, stores his or her resume in a database that will match the graduates to prospective employers.
 
Ending unemployment
Government vigilance is demanded to address the entry of illegal foreign workers competing with locals for scarce positions in the construction, manufacturing, electronics and services industries in Metro Manila, Central Visayas, Davao region, Zamboanga peninsula, Bataan and Batangas.
The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) issued this warning in The Philippine Star’s April 15 report. Given the unemployment and underemployment situation in the country, there is a need for the Department of Labor and Employment, Bureau of Immigration and other government agencies to strictly require migrant workers to pass through the proper process and secure the Alien Employment Permit.
The TUCP estimates that, unless the government becomes more vigilant, the estimated 3,500 foreigners working illegally in the country will increase.
Aside from giving benefits to new graduates and preventing unfair competition from illegal migrant workers, government should aggressively recruit from the thousands of graduates to fill 190,000 vacant public positions.
This employment strategy solves two problems: high unemployment and diversion of money saved from unoccupied government positions into controversial appropriations. Rep. Arnel Ty of the party-list group Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers Association described as “shameful” the gap between the high number of vacant positions for public elementary and high school teachers and the “tens of thousands” of jobless licensed teachers forced to work in private schools for as “low as P7,000 a month,” reported The Philippine Star last April 13.
As the country’s biggest employer, the government can do much more to solve widespread unemployment beyond greeting graduates through self-serving tarpaulins.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 20, 2015.
 
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