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Livelihood sustainability needed in post-Typhoon-Haiyan, says ILO

MANILA (ILO) – Two months after Super Typhoon Haiyan hit parts of the Philippines, the ILO is stepping up efforts to create emergency employment and sustainable livelihood opportunities to help build back better.

“Since Haiyan struck on 8 November, the ILO supported the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in creating over 20,000 jobs under the emergency employment programme. We reached out to 100,000 people during the initial phase in 2013 to help improve their living and working conditions,” said Lawrence Jeff Johnson, Director of the ILO Country Office for the Philippines.

“But more needs to be done to provide access to safe and decent work that includes ensuring minimum wages, sound occupational safety, skills development and social protection in line with national laws.”

One of the key priorities is to ensure that affected communities can again earn a livelihood without putting their safety and health at risk. Workers involved in emergency employment programmes are given personal protective equipment – masks, hats, gloves, boots and long sleeved shirts – and guaranteed social security and health insurance.

Almost 6 million workers had their livelihoods lost, suspended or affected in some way because of Typhoon Haiyan, according to ILO estimates. Of these, 2.6 million were already in vulnerable employment and living at or near the poverty line even before the deadly storm.
In Tacloban, workers in vulnerable forms of employment are calling for decent work to be made a priority in rebuilding after the super typhoon.

“Many of our fellow drivers lost their livelihoods. Prior to the onslaught of Haiyan, they were already living in poverty. Wage alone is not enough to help workers cope,” said Judy Torres, a leader of a transport group in Tacloban City. The group is calling for decent work, which they believe is a guarantee to inclusive growth, long-term security and a life of dignity.

Three million workers were affected in the service industry which included people working in shops, public markets, restaurants, vendors, tricycle and collective taxi drivers, mechanics, clerks, and teachers. In addition, 1.9 million workers in agriculture and 1 million in industry were also affected.

The ILO is working with the government and is supporting agencies like DOLE and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) through emergency employment, skills training and enterprise development.

Emergency employment programmes not only help empower survivors. They also provide an opportunity for people to gain new skills, like carpentry or masonry to rebuild houses and communities, either as workers or entrepreneurs.

Another component is to prevent survivors from being lured into jobs at home or abroad that would not meet decent work criteria.

“It is about getting livelihoods to people who have lost everything and doing it the right away to ensure inclusive growth. Part of this, as President Aquino said in his inaugural address, is for migration to be ‘an option and not a necessity’. We support the government for people to find jobs at home so that they will not be forced to leave their families behind or to accept whatever work is available just to survive,” said Johnson.

More action needed

The ILO has been implementing activities in Guiuan/Samar, Tacloban, Ormoc/Leyte, Northern Cebu, Negros Occidental, Coron/Palawan and Bohol.

For example, in Coron, workers under the emergency employment programme were hired to gather raw materials for weaving split bamboo mats used for walls at tourist resorts. The ILO is now helping the community improve productivity and sustain as a longer term livelihood beyond debris clearing, repair and reconstruction.

“I am just back from some of the affected areas and it is clear from what I saw that sustainable livelihoods should be at the forefront of the recovery process,” added Johnson. “We are currently looking for additional funding to make sure we can cover all the needs in every affected area.”

The ILO recently received US$3.2 million from the Government of Norway along with earlier support from the Government of Japan and the International Maritime Employers’ Council.