Philippines - Typhoon response

Emergency Employment Programme: Dealing with the emergency, building for the future

Article | 01 December 2013
What is an Emergency Employment Programme?
As the name implies emergency employment provides immediate livelihood support for men and women in the areas hit by Super Typhoon Haiyan who are in dire need. Some of the most vulnerable have lost both the little they had and their sources of income.

The idea is to create decent jobs while clearing off and rebuilding light infrastructure in affected areas. This way we’re not only putting much-needed cash in their hands but also helping them to develop new skills and providing them with social protection, including a minimum wage and health and accident insurance. We also make sure they have access to decent working conditions.

How does that differ from other cash-for-work programmes?
Cash-for-work is only one component of an emergency employment programme. A minimum wage is obviously a critical element, but it is not enough. It needs to include social protection and health insurance, as well as guidance on safety and health issues and personal protective equipment (respiratory protection, tools, hats, gloves and boots).The last thing we want is for people to become victims a second time. People affected by the Super Ttyphoon have been through enough trauma and pain, so we have to make sure that they are not left vulnerable and exploited.

Emergency Employment Programmes can also empower survivors by offering them the chance to acquire new skills, such as carpentry, masonry, and basic accounting, which they can apply as workers or entrepreneurs.

Who do you target and on what scale?
With our current resources we’re aiming to reach 100,000 workers within the first twelve months of the programme. By ensuring decent jobs for 100,000 workers, we could affect the lives of half-a-million people.

2.4 million of the workers affected by the Super Typhoon were already in vulnerable employment before it struck, taking whatever jobs they could to support their families. Many of these families run the risk of being thrust back into poverty. So assisting these vulnerable workers needs to go beyond emergency relief and is a top priority.

We know that farms and fisheries have been hit hard, but half the 5.6 million workers affected were in the services sector, working in shops, public markets, restaurants, or as vendors, tricycle and jeepney drivers, mechanics, clerks and teachers.

As well as working with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Social Welfare (DSW), we’re also developing partnerships with NGO’s and other agencies. The ILO is teaming up with FAO (UN Food and Agriculture Organization) on the fisheries and agricultural sectors, with UNFPA (UN Population Fund) to ensure that women and men have equal opportunities to participate, with UN-HABITAT to help to rebuild homes, and with WHO (World Health Organization) on the cleaning and rehabilitation of hospitals.

When does it start? How does it work?
It has already started. DOLE, with ILO the support, has already set up Emergency Employment Programmes in Leyte and Samar, two of the worst hit areas. Around 17,000 people have been registered (as of 29 November) and are available to work on clearing roads, rehabilitating schools, cleaning hospitals and other public infrastructure. Three other programmes are about to start in Northern Cebu, Negros Occidental and Coron (in Palawan). Each village (local called a “barangay”) can hire 30 workers for 15 days to clear sites for the construction of bunkhouses and clean up other debris.

DOLE and the ILO are assisting the local authorities to develop work plans indicating the number of workers they wish to hire, for how long, and the type of work they would do. Workers receive the wages and social security benefits set by national law. Administrative procedures have also been simplified. To be hired all a worker needs to do is give their name and date of birth.

The programme can’t last forever; what happens to the beneficiaries once the programme is over?
Preventing long-term reliance on humanitarian aid is key, in particular in areas that depend on fishing and agriculture and where livelihoods can be quickly reestablished. Experience shows that if emergency employment starts as soon as the humanitarian situation is stabilized it can spur economic recovery.

By giving affected workers decent livelihoods we enable families to buy food, goods and services. This way money passes from one person to another, allowing more people to resume their activities and start spending. This chain reaction produces a multiplier effect that leads to more jobs being created.

So, Emergency Employment Schemes stimulate the economy and give those who formerly did whatever they could to survive, the opportunity for more stable livelihoods and income. By focusing on strategic areas we can ensure we make an impact.

Have Emergency Employment Programmes already been tested and implemented in the Philippines?
The ILO has significant experience implementing Emergency Employment Programmes around the world. In the Philippines thousands of victims of other natural disasters have already benefitted from similar ILO projects, including those affected by Tropical Storm Washi (also known as Sendong), which hit Mindanao in December 2011.

People affected by Tropical Storm Sendong (and Typhoon Pablo) were given the chance to earn cash by clearing off the affected areas. In the mid and longer-term these people were involved in skills training, including mentoring in construction techniques. They received their own starter kits and tools for construction, and personal protection and safety gear. Local people not only survived the disasters but learned new skills to help them support their families, rebuild their lives and restore their communities.