Overdose of holidays
Ahead of the Holy Week, some lawmakers seem to have been bitten early by the religious bug with the filing of two religion-based holiday legislative proposals in Congress.
Last year, a law was passed making Dec. 8 of every year a nonworking holiday to commemorate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Shortly thereafter, two bills were filed to give a similar treatment to the founding anniversary of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) and to a National Bible Day.
Since the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is identified with the Roman Catholic Church, the proposals appear to be an attempt to balance the scales, so to speak, with the politically-influential INC and evangelical religious organizations whose memberships have increased in recent years and are slowly flexing their voting muscle.
These bills have drawn opposition from the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce and some business groups for their adverse effects, if enacted, on the Philippines’ business competitiveness in relation to our neighboring countries.
This year, we have 21 regular holidays and NWHs. This does not include local holidays that provinces and cities enjoy on the occasion of their foundation day or to commemorate the birthday of their famous sons or daughters.
The number of NWHs indirectly increases (courtesy of local government officials) when typhoons, floods and other natural calamities hit certain localities, or transport groups go on strike to protest government policies that adversely affect their interests.
As if the oversupply of NWHs is not enough, some lawmakers have filed bills increasing maternity leaves, granting days-off to spouses of vacationing overseas Filipino workers and giving special leaves to single parents.
For businesses, NWHs mean additional operational costs in terms of extra compensation for employees who are obliged to work on those days to meet production schedules or avoid the disruption of commercial activities.
According to the expatriate businessmen, every NWH costs the business processing office industry P750 million yearly for overtime work.
Higher operational costs mean less profits and that, no doubt, adversely affects the attractiveness of the Philippines as a suitable investment area in the region.
The country’s 21 annual NWHs (and counting) compare poorly with those of neighboring countries with whom the Philippines is competing for foreign investments, i.e., Malaysia, 14; Thailand, 17; and Vietnam, 12. Does it come as a surprise that these countries are way ahead of the Philippines in terms of direct foreign investments and national productivity?
Every day unnecessarily spent in idleness or bumming around in the malls (for those who have extra money to spend) represents a day’s loss of productivity which cannot be fully recovered or compensated by overtime work.
Add to the losses in productivity the horrendous traffic condition in Metro Manila and other urban areas of the country. According to the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the traffic situation in Metro Manila alone represents P3.5 billion in lost opportunities daily.
Not to be overlooked or ignored on having more NWHs is their financial impact on daily wage earners or people whose sustenance depends on the pay they receive for work done at the end of the day. For them, it’s “no work, no pay.”
With no take-home pay to look forward to, they are forced to either further tighten their belts or resort to “5-6” loan arrangements with moneylenders to make both ends meet.
Of course, for monthly-paid employees, NWHs are welcome because they get paid regardless of the actual days they work, and when made to work on NWHs, they get additional compensation.
Going back to the proposed religion-based holidays, let’s keep our fingers crossed that no lawmaker comes up with the idea of further equalizing the religious balance by proposing NWHs for Buddhists, Jews, Hindus and other religious sects in the country. That would really take the cake.
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