POSTSCRIPT / June 24, 2003 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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10M jobs coming up in post-recession US

ST. LOUIS, Missouri – Clutching at straws, Filipinos laboring in the United States and those intending to try their luck in this supposed land of milk and honey may take heart at reports that more jobs are expected to start opening up late this year.

At the moment, however, the labor situation – more so for alien residents facing the prospects of being jobless for long periods — has not been encouraging, what with the economy still not perking up.

Many Filipinos we’ve talked to recall the upbeat job market circa 2000-01, especially in information technology (computer programmer/analysts, for example) and health care (such as physical therapists and nurses).

We cannot see the connection, but we’ve been told that in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the Pentagon headquarters in Virginia and the World Trade Center twin towers in New York, nurses for one were suddenly in such great demand.

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10-M JOBS SEEN: A glimmer in the hazy jobs horizon is a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is constantly monitoring the employment situation, that by 2010 there will be 167 million jobs against a labor force of only 157 million – or a shortage of 10 million.

This recalls the labor-friendly situation in 2000 when there were 4.7 million more jobs than there were available workers.

Pointing out the obvious, if the local population cannot supply the 10 million workers needed by 2010, the extra hands must come from abroad.

The 10-million shortage will not suddenly burst upon the scene in 2010, but build up gradually starting late this year, especially with the promise of President George W. Bush that the economy will see an upturn in the second half of the year.

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RISING DEMAND: Looking for other encouraging figures in the generally dismaying labor statistics, the Pinoy looking for employment or a better job may take heart in the report that the 5.8 percent unemployment rate in March this year was lower than the 7 percent of 10 years ago.

Many human resources managers are excited, and at the same time challenged, with labor statistics showing an increasing demand for workers projected to peak into a shortage of 10 million workers by 2010.

Laws requiring employers to give equal opportunity to minorities will help Pinoys here, among others, compete for jobs when they become available.

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DEMS FIRE AWAY: Before the economy recovers under a Republican administration, meanwhile, Democratic presidential hopefuls have been hammering at jobs, wages and tax issues dragging down the reelectionist President Bush.

Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt deplored recently the scarcity of jobs, saying that “people are giving up because jobs are leaving.” He was apparently referring to the transplanting of factories from the US to such places as Mexico and China that offer lower labor costs.

North Carolina Sen. John Edwards said: “We have to have a plan to replace the manufacturing jobs we’ve already lost.” He deplored that some two million jobs had vanished under Bush management.

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry batted for adoption of an economic policy that went beyond cutting taxes as Mr. Bush would have it. He called for tougher labor and environmental standards being inserted in trade agreements.

The census bureau, incidentally, has reported that 11.7 percent of Americans were poor in 2001, up from 11.3 percent in 2000. That means some 1.3 million had fallen below the poverty line under the Bush administration.

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DISMOUNTING TIGER: But even the Democrats are generally tiptoeing around the other issue of the American invasion of Iraq. Their attitude is reflective of the stance taken by the average American.

In our conversations with a cross-section of Americans, we invariably hear the line that while some of them may have disagreed with the reason given by the administration for the invasion, with the decision having been made, they must support now the troops and the president.

The dilemma facing Bush is how to dismount the tiger after having mounted it. To beat a retreat with Iraqis in chase, the US may suffer ignominy reminiscent of Vietnam.

That would be disastrous for Mr. Bush, who is called upon not only to revive the economy but also find soonest a dignified disengagement from Iraq.

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PEACEKEEPING PINOYS: Among the questions being asked us here is if the Philippines is sending even just a token contribution to an allied peacekeeping force.

We recall to them that Manila was supposed to send a contingent consisting of military, police and health personnel, but that the contingent has failed to leave for the war-torn country.

We note that the Philippines was listed by Mr. Bush with his “coalition of willing” supporters to stave off observations that the US was drifting into diplomatic isolation with its bypassing of the UN Security Council on the Iraq question.

Having sided with the US, a protagonist, the Philippines cannot play the role of a peacekeeper. For better or for worse, a Philippine contingent in Iraq will be regarded not as a peacekeeper but as an auxiliary unit of the occupation US forces.

In fact, the unkind joke going around is that Mr. Bush is in a hurry to have Filipino policemen sent to Iran after hearing of their supposed talent for planting evidence. The betting is that within one week of their arrival in Iraq, the elusive Weapons of Mass Destruction will suddenly be found.

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CIVIC ACTION: Instead of a peacekeeping force performing police work, it might be better to send a civic action group that includes an engineering crew and medical teams.

Aside from the prospects of being stoned by Iraqis, or shot at like American troops, we have to worry about raising the money to finance such a group. If we have to ask the US to fund the logistical requirements of our boys, huwag na lang silang padala.

We thought of our engineering battalion upon seeing on TV an all-American team assembling a 300-foot Bailey bridge across the Tigris River where GIs had blown up the old span to prevent Iraqi forces from crossing it.

The commander said that they did not employ Iraqis, because the Americans wanted the work done faster with them doing it by themselves.

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OPPORTUNITY LOST: We think that was a golden opportunity lost. That was a chance for Americans to involve Iraqis in a cooperative effort that will build not only bridges but also stronger bonds between peoples.

Having participated in building the bridge, Iraqis would have been proud having a stake in the community project and would therefore protect it even while identifying it with Americans.

The propensity of Americans to impose themselves and their system on other cultures has been one of the major errors of their operations in other lands.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 24, 2003)

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