The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for many years supports women empowerment by providing women with equal economic opportunities and unleashing their potential is a key to economic growth and by acknowledging the many benefits derived when women are in the work force, there is greater equality and it narrows the gender gap, increasing household income, and increased financial stability for families.

These benefits include maternity leave, leave for victims of violence against women and children (VAWC), and special leave for women with gynecological disorders, compliance with the Expanding Breastfeeding Promotion Act on the provision of lactation stations and lactation breaks for breastfeeding women.

DOLE’s relentless efforts in ensuring that all workers enjoy their rightful benefits, the thousands of establishments inspected which is close to two million workers, of these workers 635,000 plus or 35.2% are women. The Labor Department’s data show high compliance rates for women-related benefits: Maternity Leave (99%), VAWC leave (97.88%), Special Leave for Women (97.94%), and Lactation Stations (95.83%).

Adopting the Family Welfare Program (FWP) promotes productivity in the workplace and improves relations between management and employees. During meetings with various industry tripartite councils (ITCs), the DOLE in Cordilleras, urged companies to institutionalize FWP in the workplace. The concept of promoting the welfare of workers and their families is the key to workplace productivity.

For a family welfare program to become functional, there is a need to integrate in its implementation the 10 dimensions to instill family planning/family welfare consciousness among labor and management as a key in promoting workplace productivity, among others. The 10 dimensions of the family welfare program include the following, namely: reproductive health and responsible parenthood; education/gender equality; spirituality or value formation; income generation/livelihood/cooperative; medical health care; nutrition; environment protection, hygiene and sanitation; sports and leisure; housing; and transportation. The program is a mandatory requirement for establishments employing more than 200 workers. The company’s creation of a family welfare committee is one of the indicators being checked during DOLE’s inspections. For 2019 a total of 1,635 establishments and companies were inspected by DOLE-Cordillera.

The Special Program for the Employment for Students (SPES) aims to develop the intellectual capacities of children of poor families and harness their potentials. Specifically, the program aims to help poor but deserving students pursue their education by providing income opportunities through encouraging their employment during summer and/or Christmas vacations. A total of 4,815 students from Abra, Baguio City, Benguet, Apayao, Ifugao, Kalinga, Tabuk City and Mt. Province benefited from the SPES program for 2019 and a total of P 18,894,808.88 SPES funds disbursements.

To contribute to the realization of the national goal of poverty reduction and inclusive development, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) implements the DOLE Integrated Livelihood Program (DILP) Kabuhayan Program. DILP specifically seeks to assist vulnerable workers such as the self-employed, landless farmers, unpaid family workers, displaced workers, parents of child laborers and low-wage seasonal workers. Selected beneficiaries are provided with livelihood opportunities, as well as training support, to help them augment their incomes and consequently reduce their vulnerability. For the Cordilleras, there were 2,242 DILP beneficiaries with a total DILP Fund provided amounting to P 29,884,723.12 while for the TUPAD program or Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers is a community-based package of assistance that provides emergency employment for displaced workers, underemployed and seasonal workers, for a minimum period of 10 days, but not to exceed a maximum of 30 days, depending on the nature of work to be performed. A total of 27,174 individuals in the cordilleras were benefited by the TUPAD program with a fund disbursed amounting to P 189,936,814.58.

For three consecutive years, the DOLE has led in helping the country achieve significant advancement in its efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The DOLE Cordillera has always been steadfast in addressing child labor and its worst forms. Through a convergence strategy, the campaign brings the government’s child labor programs and services to the barangay level and to the household level.

Based on a 2011 survey by the Philippine Statistics Authority and the International Labor Organization (ILO), there are 2.097 million child laborers and children at risk in the Philippines. The DOLE targets to eliminate at least 630,000 by the end of 2022. The survey also showed that there are 41,940 children at risk of child labor in the Cordilleras which is hoped to be eliminated in full or least cut by one fourth by 2022.

The reality is children from poor families are being forced by necessity to augment the family’s coffers by working. Leaving school and working is a decision forced upon children by the reality they face each day. When children are out of school, they are more at risk of working in plantations, services and mines. For this year a total of 3,763 children at risk to child labor were profiled in the six provinces and two cities in the Cordilleras and a total of 3,531 were referred to various government services and were already receiving assistance from DOLE and Project Angel Tree. Project Angel Tree is a collaboration of DOLE with other government agencies and the private sector.

Other significant labor and employment law implemented in 2019 include the labor advisory on “Compressed workweek “which should be based on voluntary agreement of both parties and that it should not result in diminution of the existing benefits of the employees. The compressed workweek is a flexible work arrangement where the normal workweek is reduced to less than six days, but the total number of work hours per week shall remain. The normal workday is increased to more than eight hours, but not to exceed 12 hours, without corresponding overtime premium. The concept can be adjusted accordingly depending on the normal workweek of the company.

Labor Advisory 10, which entitles domestic workers to Statutory Leave Benefits and Labor Standard Benefits and further strengthen the rights of household workers and their entitlement to benefits and statutory leaves and also to answer the clamor of domestic workers.

END/Patrick Rillorta