What Extended Lockdown Means to Contractuals and Daily Wage Earners

What Extended Lockdown Means to Contractuals and Daily Wage Earners

UNTIL NOW (March 30), that rumored extension of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), aka lockdown, is all FAKE NEWS. It’s never true yet. We are but simply advised to subscribe to the trusted news sources (the biggies). Rumors have it all though. Others still hold that belief and confidence that this will end soon, and everything will get back to normal by mid-April. I don’t think so.

TODAY as we stare at the open kitchen cupboard, we forcibly convince ourselves that we still have enough supplies for the weeks to come. We stare even longer until we’re not any more convinced that we really have. We will run predictably short of supplies.

TOMORROW is but uncertain. I don’t even know, as I write this, whether I’ll still have another paycheck to receive this April. I have the semestral teaching contract to lapse this end of March. I am a regular employee, but ‘no work, no pay’ also applies to us especially during summer. I don’t think all other honoraria awaiting release will suffice for food and bills for the next thirteen days or more. I still hope for a good news.

As I drafted the solicitation letter for an outreach initiative upon my coworker’s request the other day, I came to realize and felt bad about the unfortunate situation of our contractual workers and daily wage earners (the beneficiaries I was told to indicate) amidst this crisis. It’s not any longer just a health, but an economic crisis too. That’s what makes it even more depressing!

Look, it’s not just food that we need in order to survive through this crisis. I understand that our government distributes food packages and hygiene kits but surviving a decent lifestyle doesn’t just require these. Food preparation itself requires more than just rice and canned goods. It’s hell serious, I understand.

The government’s COVID-19 Adjustment Program Measure (CAMP) that translates to a lump sum financial assistance of PHP5,000.00 is a big help but never a material solution. It’s never enough for even a small family for another thirty days if ever there will really be a lockdown extension.

Another thing, not all daily wage earners — the street vendors, drivers, construction workers, cleaners, food servers, porters, cooks, helpers, domestic workers, and others — belong to the formal economy. I don’t think all of them will qualify for the subsidy. When lockdown came into force, most of them were denied of their livelihood means. In other words, they were hit the hardest.

I remember when I wasn’t yet a regular teacher employee, I would spend the whole two-month summer (unless called for enrollment manpower) without pay and wait until June for the resumption of classes. That’s the dilemma of most teachers in the private sector.

On one end, it was a grand vacation and break from the stresses of the classroom. I was able to pursue though my passion — blogging. On the other end without having enough, it was two months of stretching all the savings for the day-to-day expenses. It was indeed a struggle, I should say.

Fast forward, and now that I am a regular employee of the school, I have been given the twelve-month work assurance. But the situation right now seems to revive such a state of uncertainty.

LET’S SAY our daily wage earners will have (even as a consolation I hope) that PHP5,000.00 fully stretched through the month. For a small family of three to five members, a half-kilo rice may suffice for a meal, hence slashing out PHP2,000.00 from the figure.

What remains is PHP3,000.00, or PHP100.00 per day, for viand and all other household expenses. Unless canned sardines and instant noodles are reasonably enough that such will make it through the days. How about snacks? How about the bills (although extended due dates) and the rent? How about the maintenance meds? Admit it, it’s not enough.

SUCH A SAD REALITY in a highly capitalist third-world country, ensuring one’s health and surviving such as COVID-19 pandemic are a privilege. Not everyone has the access to sanitary living. Social distancing, handwashing, and staying at home are all but privileges.

In the slums, people live in small crowded spaces. Others do not even have the living spaces we can call. Others do not have the access to clean running water too. Such sad realities explain why even a COVID-19 test itself is a privilege. Hello to our privileged politicians and family (waving)!

In the end, we should all learn from this crisis. The government should learn as much as the people should. While the blame for the perceived unpreparedness is put on the government, the people should have the fair share of it. Building a personal emergency fund is what I try to imply. Truth hurts. I could feel it.