By John Victor D. Ordonez, Reporter
THE government’s employment masterplan must harness artificial intelligence (AI) to create more job opportunities without displacing them, labor unions said.
“Our vision is that the Trabaho Para sa Bayan Inter-Agency Council will establish the necessary framework to ensure the responsible deployment of AI technology, benefiting both employees and businesses alike,” Jose G. Matula, president of the Federation of Free Workers, said in a Viber message.
President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. on Wednesday signed into law a bill authorizing the creation of a national employment roadmap and an inter-agency body to draft a national strategy for job generation.
Mr. Matula noted that the council must put forward upskilling programs that allow workers to use automation to their advantage, instead of having robots replace physical labor.
The recently signed law aims to boost the competitiveness of the workforce through upskilling and reskilling programs.
The inter-agency council, which will be headed by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Trade and Labor secretaries, will be tasked to assist local government units in implementing job recovery programs.
NEDA Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said the law will “facilitate stronger coordination and partnership among relevant agencies and stakeholders for the efficient implementation of employment programs.
In a July report, the Asian Development Bank said 20% of Philippine workers face a “high risk of losing their jobs” due to automation.
Josua T. Mata, secretary-general of the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO), said the measure will fail to meet its goal of job creation if it does not ensure workers are afforded full-time employment.
“It could fail to live up to its promise of providing the jobs that we need as it missed a very important point: the need to realize the constitutional mandate for full employment,” he said in a Viber message.
Mr. Mata reiterated the labor sector’s position that the government must boost public-sector employment programs and offer wage subsidies to micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises.
SENTRO has urged the government to take the lead in employment generation after the Labor department presented its labor and employment plan for the next five years.
The unemployment rate rose to 4.8% in July from 4.5% a month earlier. Job quality worsened as the underemployment rate, which measures employed workers looking for more work or longer hours, rose to a 20-month high of 15.9% from 12% in June.
“Contrary to the government’s orthodox position that it should merely be enablers of jobs generation, we believe that government should directly generate jobs through a robust public employment program,” Mr. Mata said.