Researched Works

Decent Work for Filipinos: Post-Colonization and Globalization

Filipinos struggle to secure decent work. Though changes have occurred, conditions are still far from better under post-colonization and globalization eras. Filipinos are among the world's labor force struggling to secure decent work. As the Philippines continues to face socioeconomic challenges, aggravated by political maneuverings and unscrupulous, yet elected civil "servants" who mostly belong to privileged families, millions of Filipino workers - overseas and otherwise - remain hopeful of achieving a better future for themselves and their families.

However, as Ofreneo, et al. note (2001), fierce global competition has caused many unionized multinational firms to relocate to other countries like China, Vietnam, and Thailand where labor rates are cheaper. Consequently, such moves have weakened unionism and discouraged labor organizing. This development is unfortunate, as the right to unionize or organize has been a key factor in securing better job conditions for Filipinos.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) and Its Decent Work Agenda (DWA)

The ILO was formed by the United Nations (UN, formerly League of Nations) at the end of the Great War in 1919. Its institutionalization was meant "to promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue in handling work-related issues.” Its conventions provide ideal standards of working conditions to promote social justice among its member countries (ILO 2000).

One of ILO's important campaigns is the DWA. For the ILO, "work is a source of personal dignity, family stability, peace in the community, democracies that deliver for people, and economic growth that expands opportunities for productive jobs and enterprise development." Moreover, it sees the DWA, together with productive employment, as crucial "to achieving a fair globalization and the reduction of poverty."

The four main objectives of the DWA are: (1) to create jobs; (2) to guarantee rights at work; (3) to extend social protection; and (4) to promote dialogue and conflict resolution. In implementing programs related to these objectives, the ILO emphasizes the adoption of gender equality, where both men and women benefit and experience decent work and good quality of life.

Decent Work in the Age of Post-Colonization and Globalization

After centuries of colonial enslavement under the Spanish regime (1521-1898) and over four decades of being under the United States (1898-1945), the Philippines finally achieved its independence in 1946. The country joined the ILO in 1948 and ratified some of its conventions.

Following public policies implemented by the Americans, the Philippine government also enacted other measures related to employment and welfare or workers, such as the Social Security Act in 1954 for private employees and the Labor Code in 1974.

An increasing number of enterprises in the country started to recognize the importance of having a harmonious labor and management (L-M) relationship. However, programs and incentives for workers are affected by the nature and locus of the firm’s business operations, the type of economic sector to which it belongs, the market realities it deals with, and its financial status and technology environment.

Among the pro-labor rewards or employment benefits noted by Cases on Business Initiatives on Work Life (2004) in some Philippine-based firms (e.g., Philippine Daily Inquirer, St. Luke's Medical Center, Nestlé Philippines, and Asian Transmission Corporation) are the following:

Evolution of Humanized Workplaces in the Philippines

In spite of labor migration or overseas work, inadequate wages and salaries, limited jobs, rising unemployment, and other issues, Philippine society has seen the creation of humanized or humane workplaces. Though still wanting, such human-friendly employment conditions are a result of the combined efforts of civil society organizations (such as labor groups, women’s groups, and members of the clergy), the government and public policymakers, enlightened and fair employers, and foreign influences, particularly the ILO.


Ayala Foundation, Inc. and the Employers Confederation of the Philippines. 2004. Cases on Business Initiatives on Work Life. The Ford Foundation.

International Labor Organization. 2000. About ILO. (accessed February 24, 2008).

International Labor Organization. 2006. Facts on Decent Work. (accessed March 9, 2011).

International Labor Organization. n.d. ILO History. (accessed February 24, 2008).

Ofreneo, Rene. et al. 2001. Recent Developments in Employment Relations in the Philippines. (accessed November 8, 2007).

Written by Leann Zarah (

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