For all the noise about the growing number of Chinese workers flooding the Philippines, very few “activists” have raised this most important question of all.
Why do Chinese workers attract bigger wages than Filipino workers?
Furthermore, it seems employers of Chinese workers in the Philippines are willing to take significant effort and incur the cost required to import, house, and settle them. Clearly there is something about choosing Chinese workers over Filipino workers that makes business sense.
It very likely comes down to labour productivity — how much output of value a worker delivers per capita hour. If businesses go through the trouble and cost of preferring Chinese over Filipino workers, there may be something about how well one works compared to the other. Clues surrounding Filipino labour productivity can be found in Nick Joaquin’s seminal piece A Heritage of Smallness where he observes…
The Filipino who travels abroad gets to thinking that his is the hardest working country in the world. By six or seven in the morning we are already up on our way to work, shops and markets are open; the wheels of industry are already agrind. Abroad, especially in the West, if you go out at seven in the morning you’re in a dead-town. Everybody’s still in bed; everything’s still closed up. Activity doesn’t begin till nine or ten– and ceases promptly at five p.m. By six, the business sections are dead towns again. The entire cities go to sleep on weekends. They have a shorter working day, a shorter working week. Yet they pile up more mileage than we who work all day and all week.
It is worth reiterating that last couple of sentences where Joaquin highlights a confronting fact about the economic realities of labour productivity in advanced societies.
“They have a shorter working day, a shorter working week. Yet they pile up more mileage than we who work all day and all week.”
It seems Filipinos evaluate the “issue” of Chinese workers “stealing jobs” from Filipinos on the basis of an assumption that is begging to be challenged. Challenging that assumption requires the question to be reframed thus…
Are Filipinos better workers than the Chinese?
Perhaps framed this way, the issue becomes a more substantial one to reflect upon. If Filipinos reflect on the right questions, only then will the more truthful answers emerge.
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