By Hannah Torregoza
As work from home has become the new normal for most companies that continue to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said he expects digital-related careers in the country to increase even after the global health crisis is over.
To prepare Filipinos for the skills needed for the gig economy and to promote and strengthen digital careers, Angara pushed for the immediate passage of Senate Bill 1469 or the National Digital Careers Act.
The bill aims to support the growth and development of the gig economy, which refers to the practice of companies of hiring short-term, independent contractors or freelancers.
Angara noted jobs available to these freelancers usually fall under the umbrella of digital careers, and in most instances, labor is done outside of the office and payment is made based on output and fulfillment of deliverables.
The senator said he is optimistic about the proposed law as he expects work from home arrangements continuing even after the lockdown is lifted or at least until a vaccine is found for COVID-19.
In many cases, businesses have also made adjustments to their operations because of the losses they have incurred over the lockdown period and this includes downsizing.
“We are seeing the growth of the so-called gig economy in the country and with the extended period of the lockdown being implemented because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be even more activities on this front as businesses have to adjust to the new normal,” Angara said.
“Workers affected by the lockdown will also be exploring new ways to make a living and with many businesses shutting down because they are unable to cope with their losses, people will start looking at alternative means of livelihood,” he added.
Angara, who chairs the Senate finance committee, pointed out there are freelance jobs that have become staples in the Philippine setting such as those in Transportation Network Vehicle Service (TNVS) system, food delivery and courier services, and even home sharing.
The Philippines has been ranked sixth by Forbes in 2019 as among the fastest growing markets for freelancers, with a 35 percent income growth from the previous year.
On the other hand, Paypal, in its 2018 Global Freelancer Insights Report, analyzed 22 countries and noted that the Philippines has one of the highest number of freelancers per capita, at around two percent or roughly 1.5 to two million Filipinos.
Angara pointed out freelancers are usually paid very well as they get to work at home, at their own pace, and without the pressure of micromanaging bosses.
“It’s the perfect setup for people who qualify for these jobs. On the part of the employers, hiring freelancers means lower costs on their part and they get to tap a huge talent pool, all of which would make a positive impact on their bottom line,” he added.
He said the bill primarily seeks to establish a legal framework for the gig economy that will map out strategies to promote and strengthen digital careers and institutionalize employment standards for digital career workers.
Under the bill, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), the Department of Education (DepEd), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) are tasked to create, design and develop programs to ensure access to trainings, market and other forms of support or innovation strategies for digital careers.
“But first we have to ensure that the infrastructure is in place, specifically to provide reliable, high-speed Internet access in all areas of the country,” Angara stressed.
“A lot of our activities under the new normal will rely on Internet connectivity—be it education or commerce, so this must be among our national priorities now,” he emphasized.
Also under the bill, the DICT, together with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and other relevant departments and agencies are tasked to prioritize and facilitate the development of connectivity infrastructures in the localities across the country.
Angara said the development of digital careers is one of the thrusts of “Tatak Pinoy,” which is meant to spur innovation, address supply chain issues, and develop the skills of Filipinos in order to prepare them to face the demands of the constantly changing marketplace.
Some of the common lucrative digital jobs in the market today include web development and designing; online teaching and tutoring, content creation (writing and copywriting and others); digital marketing (e-Commerce, sales and marketing); creative design, graphic designing, 3D modelling and CAD, game development, logo design and illustration; and audio and video production; mobile app development; search engine optimization; virtual assistance (administrative support or assistance); branding and public relations, social media coordinator and community management; web research, business intelligence and data analytics; transcription and data entry jobs article and blog writing; customer service and technical support; human resource management and systems; architecture services and other professional services through the Internet.