Employment and earning situation of the people in my surroundings
Money, payment, earnings, salary, cash… In this very moment these terms cause enormous trouble and likewise splendiferous joy to many people all around the globe. Feeling happiness or concerns when hearing the word money has become an almost “natural” phenomenon in our world today. In essence, we give away portions of our time and energy and receive what we call money, as a more universal object of value, in return. Then we are able to go out and give this object away again to be rewarded with items that are essential to sustain our lives, such as food, shelter and entertainment. We agree within our gigantic communities that a neutral, artificial item serves as evidence that a person has offered sufficient time and energy in the past, which now entitles this individual to certain benefits. So far so good. Now that means money – or a specific object of value – can be the difference between life and death. So naturally, people from any culture will be worried if they do not have a sufficient access to money, as long as the culture has implemented such an object of value. Hence, money can be considered a primary factor of a certain extent of happiness. Therefore, even people from vastly different countries such as Germany and the Philippines usually have money on their minds.
Let’s talk about money a little more… The official currency in the Philippines is called the “Philippine Peso” (PHP), which can be divided into 100 “centavos”. According to stock markets, one Euro equals approximately 60 Philippine Pesos at the moment. Thus, in order to understand Filipino salaries a little more, let us compare official minimum wages at first. In Germany, the minimum wage for any registered worker amounts to almost 9€ per hour, which would equal about 540.00 PHP per hour. If an employee works about eight hours per day, his daily wage would add up to miraculous 4,320.00 PHP. In comparison, the legal minimum wage in the Philippines is 514 PHP per day, which would add up to about 14,000 PHP (roughly 233€) per month for a full-time job. However, it turns out to be impossible that all the working class earns at least this much money, which has also been confirmed by locals. Why does the federal government then claim such a thing? All I was told in that context was that there is a difference between the minimum payment of a hired employee, captured on tax forms, and a person’s daily earnings out on the streets. In order to make this a little clearer the following chosen examples hopefully provide an informative glimpse at the earning situation of both common and uncommon Filipinos.
There are indeed jobs that are considered as well-paid here. It is considered normal that teachers in public schools earn about 23,000 PHP (roughly 383€) per month, which would count as a relatively good payment. A friendly social worker once told me that as a reliable, long-term social worker in a private corporation it is likely to receive a monthly salary of 40,000 PHP (about 670€) and more. Truly, these salaries are quite high for Filipino standards. But also, there are extremely well paid occupations in this country. How much exactly these people earn or what they even do for a living, I do not know. But – according to their rarely seen, enormous mansions – I would consider this 1% of the population as rich even for European standards.
Then, of course, there are less affluent people. A Padyak is basically nothing but a bike with a roof and a little wagon on the right side which provides seating for one or two people. The Padyak driver (or should I say rider?) transports passengers a few blocks up or down the road, which is convenient to locals especially when there is light rain or extreme sunshine. Usually a ride costs about 5 PHP. However, since many “drivers” do not own their padyak, they have to pay the owner of the bike 40 PHP per day to rent it. Whatever is left of their daily earnings, they may take home. Thus, if one earns 100 PHP with padyak rides on a regular day, that person will be able to support their families with 60 PHP on that day. One kilo of rice costs about 40 PHP here. On the other hand, the owner of one padyak will earn at least 40 PHP. The drivers of tricycles – motorcycles instead of bikes with a wagon on its side – work in the same way. The only differences are (1) a regular ride costs 8 PHP, (2) one tricycle can fit up to eight or nine passengers and (3) at the end of the day the drivers have to return 500 PHP to the owner. That would leave roughly 300 PHP to them and their families on a regular day.
At the residential home for disabled and abandoned poor people (MoP), where I am working still, there are a number of caretakers (“Pfleger”) that help maintaining the facility every day of the week. One day I was told each of these staff members earns 100 to 150 PHP per day, depending on how long they have worked there already. Each one of them supports a family with several children. Yet, at MoP the caretakers receive food packages each week, including 25 kilos of rice per month, to get by. Comparable to this would be the occupation of a construction worker here. It is confirmed one of these earns about 350 PHP per day, including food during their scheduled hours.
The MoP monastery itself is located in one of the poorest communities around Naga City. Also, the city dumpsite is nearby, which is why one can find numerous so called “junk shops” in that area. There people collect, clean and sell items from the dumpsite. Garbage, basically. That’s why they are called “junk” shops. Exact knowledge about their earnings I cannot provide but while I was waiting for a tricycle to hire, I spotted a sign in the junk shop on the other side of the road, which read: “5 Pesos per kilo” and was attached to a large bundle of white 10L plastic jerry cans/canisters. Also, vendors at the local market for fruits, vegetables, spices and home-made goods sometimes sell their goods amongst many other salespeople (with the exact same products) for astonishingly little money. At this market, I recently encountered a lady selling bananas for 20 PHP per kilo as one of at least 15 other vendors selling bananas. Even for Filipino standards that is very little. One can make up his one mind about the daily wages of people like those mentioned above but it seems to me that such prices of products cannot afford wealthy living standards.
In any case, it is possible to distinct a more affluent social class out on the streets by the way people dress, where they live and go shopping, what kind of vehicle they drive and at times even how they behave. It seems to me that – at one point – one must cross a line, meaning receive a certain amount of money for whatever job they do, in order to almost instantly belong to this “level” of society. We as volunteers do not earn money because we are volunteers. Yet we are given some pocket money and a budget for the cost of living, food, transportation, etc. This reimbursement of about 18,000 PHP allows us to live here in a way that some locals would already consider as terribly wealthy. In general, we cannot complain about money while living, laughing, working and becoming friends with those who belong to the poorest in the world.