TV5 explainer: Wage hikes vs. current living costs

CHEERS TO TV5’s Frontline Tonight explainer which pointed out that the announced wage hikes for Metro Manila and Western Visayas hardly address current living costs. The segment reported the labor groups’ reaction that the increases are inadequate for both urban and provincial workers.

In News ExplainED, anchor Ed Lingao stressed that the paltry increases in both areas are  inconsequential – “Sa tingin ng iba, halaga lang ng pang-pasa-load,” quipped the broadcaster – given the still rising prices of essential goods.

Lingao then went on to review daily wage levels across the country. TV5’s research identified those regions with the highest and lowest take-home pay rates. Workers in Metro Manila, Western Visayas, and Central Luzon earn the most in daily wages, while those in Bicol, Zamboanga Peninsula, and Mimaropa are paid the least. 

The report included labor groups’ saying that even Metro Manila’s new daily wage rate of PHP570 is inadequate for daily needs.  Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), for example, had recommended a PHP750 common daily rate nationwide to enable workers to meet day-to-day expenses.

The labor groups  also criticized the increase for failing to consider   the 4% inflation rate in March, which triggered increases in food and electricity costs.

Lingao also called attention to the government’s own assessment of the poverty threshold. The Philippine Statistics Authority in 2021 found that a family of five would need at least PHP12,082 per month to afford essential goods. Taking this into account, Lingao stressed that even in the National Capital Region (NCR) where daily wage rates are highest, workers cannot earn enough to provide for their basic needs.

Addressing lower wages in provinces

Justifying lower wages in the provinces, the government said this was based on lower living costs and prices of goods in those areas. Labor groups, in response, called attention to the prices of canned goods in the provinces as being the same as those in the NCR. They also cited the high cost of fuel and electricity nationwide. 

Media record critique of “good news”

News accounts of the wage hike  reported the criticisms, but left emphasizing the weight of rising living costs to sources.

On May 15, ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo spotlighted the call of labor group SENTRO to abolish the regional tripartite boards responsible for the set increase, and to reinstate the national wage-setting system. The report also reported the comment of labor group, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), which similarly said that  while welcome, the daily wage hikes are inadequate. 

CNN Philippines’ May 16 report included the comments of TUCP spokesman Alan Tanjusay, who also made the same point. The report concluded with man-on-the-street interviews. One male worker said, the hike is “better than nothing.” A young woman said the increase should be higher for her to  afford her basic living expenses

Wages and the cost of living should be in the news radar as the economy moves forward.  The pandemic exposed the  inequalities in our society that must be corrected not just by wage hikes but by more structural and radical shifts in government priorities, especially in the distribution of goods and benefits.  

Journalists should be working on embedding these fundamental issues in the news agenda. They should focus on  the concerns of the public they are sworn to serve.