A bill at the House of Representatives that seeks to establish employment standards in the so-called “gig” economy has passed on second reading.
Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte said House Bill (HB) 6926 aims to enhance the competitiveness of Filipino digital workers through access to necessary training, skills development and scholarship programs as the country transitions to the “new normal.”
HB 6926 is the consolidation of HB 6759 filed previously by Villafuerte and HB 6786 filed by Bohol Rep. Kristine Alexie Tutor.
The consolidated bill, also known as the proposed “National Digital Careers Act of 2020,” mandates the government to map out strategies to promote and strengthen digital careers that have flourished long before the coronavirus pandemic struck.
The measure is a counterpart to Senate Bill 1469 filed by Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara.
About 2 percent, or some 1.5 to 2-million Filipinos, are or have engaged in one form or another of freelance work, Villafuerte said, citing PayPal’s 2018 Global Freelance Insights Report.
In 2019, the Philippines was ranked as the fastest growing market for freelancers and landed sixth place on a Forbes magazine list of top freelance markets in the world, he noted.
In terms of earnings, a study has shown that Filipino freelancers earn a monthly average of about P39,000, working for about 32 hours weekly, the lawmaker from the second district of Camarines Sur said.
“The flexible work hours of the gig economy has consequently attracted the country’s millennial and youth workforce,” Villafuerte said.
Under the bill, the Departments of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and of Education (DepEd); the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) are required to craft a master plan to provide access to training, market support and other forms of assistance to workers pursuing digital careers.
Meanwhile, the Departments of Labor and Employment (DoLE) and of Trade and Industry (DTI), in consultation with the DICT, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), DepEd, Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), CHEd and Tesda, are tasked under the bill to draw up labor standards for digital career workers, including the compliance by employers with the prescribed minimum wage rates.
These standards should also include the adoption of a simple process for the registration of, and filing of complaints by, digital career workers, freelancers, or freelance workers; the setting up of minimum requirements for persons to be qualified as digital career workers in the form of industry-centric certifications or trainings; and the adoption of a simple mechanism to ensure that digital career workers, freelancers or freelance workers file taxes and other fees due to the government, Villafuerte said.
The bill also provides for incentives to digital workers and freelancers in the form of scholarships, training, subsidies, grants-in-aid and startup support.
The DICT, Departments of Budget Management and of Public Works and Highways, and other relevant departments and agencies are mandated under the bill to ensure universal access to the high-speed, quality and affordable Internet by prioritizing and facilitating the development of connectivity infrastructure in the localities across the country.
Villafuerte said, “The DILG and DICT shall jointly assess the e-readiness of all municipalities, cities, provinces and regions to ensure a thriving digital careers ecosystem.”
Integrating workers into the “gig economy” and into the overall labor regulatory framework and providing them the necessary support from government will “further the government’s industrialization policy by maintaining a policy environment conducive to and supportive of innovations and creative business strategies,” the Bicol legislator added.
He said the country needs to fast-track its switch to digitalization, more so when contactless transactions are the preferred modes in this time of distancing and other safety protocols to avoid the transmission of the novel coronavirus.