February 2, 2023

The informal sector is one of the faces of poverty and inequality in the country. Why? Workers in this sector are highly vulnerable since they lack social protection, such as health benefits, insurance, and a decent working environment, which formal economy employees enjoy.

Social protection as defined by the World Bank consists of policies and programs designed to reduce poverty and vulnerability by promoting efficient labor markets, diminishing people’s exposure to risks and enhancing their capacity to manage economic and social risks, such as unemployment, exclusion, sickness, disability, and old age.

Social protection enables members of society to advance the well-being and security of their citizens by protecting them from vulnerability and deprivation so that they can pursue a decent life.

Sadly, those in the informal sector lack or do not have social protection.

Without social protection, they and their families have no shield from the impact of economic shocks, natural disasters, and other crises.

Moreover, activities of the informal sector are usually conducted without proper recognition from the authorities and thus escape the attention of the administrative machinery responsible for enforcing laws and regulations. This makes those in the informal sector vulnerable to work-related hazards.

Cemetery workers are one of those in the informal sector that experience low and irregular income, and precarious employment.

Their jobs are based on the Filipino labor systems of kontrata, “labor”, pakyawan, and arawan, which are common in other informal sectors such as construction workers. They do not have an employer-employee relationship, and therefore are not monitored and entitled to social protection.

During the onset of the Covid pandemic, I realize how the informal sector, particularly cemetery workers, suffered.

Implementation of the enhanced community quarantine gravely affected the economies around the world. Businesses and workers experienced severe effects especially those who have less in life, like those in the informal sector.

Observance of the Undas was supposedly a breakthrough for cemetery workers to earn more than their usual income. But closure of all private and public cemeteries, memorial parks, and columbarium nationwide from Oct. 29 to Nov. 4, 2020 in compliance with the Omnibus Guidelines on the Implementation of Community Quarantine in the Philippines gravely affected cemetery workers.

Majority of them are indigents and are earning enough to feed their families.

A week’s closure means a week without income. What is upsetting in the previous pandemic years is that there is no meeting with cemetery workers nor approached by any government entities to assist them.

Moreover, media only reports about the schedule of closure but never mentions the workers or sectors affected. It seems that the public has forgotten to foresee the welfare of this sector.

In this context and with our road to recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, I hope that the government can address and provide for the needs of the informal sector.

Even as the pandemic is nearing its end, I pray that government will initiate and consider not just cemetery workers, but also all informal sector workers as recipients and partners of development.