Stop Age Discrimination!

Stop Age Discrimination!
Co-Sponsorship Speech
By Senator Pia S. Cayetano
10 June 2014

SB No. 29 under Committee Report No. 38 entitled,
Anti-age Discrimination in Employment Act of 2013

Abilidad, hindi edad.

Mr. President, this is the battle cry of Filipino workers in the country and beyond our shores, who have made a strong stand against age discrimination in the workplace.

Our Constitution mandates that the State shall promote equality of employment opportunities for all. Yet, whenever I go around the country, people would walk up to me and share stories about how they couldn’t land jobs despite their ability and willingness to work. As it turns out, age discrimination was the culprit.

And true enough, if any senator here would open the classified ads to check what jobs are available, he or she would see age requirements specified for jobs that can be performed by both the young and old.

Age discrimination is one of the biggest barriers to employment in this country, and yet there is no law to prohibit it. There is none in our Labor Code; and until recently, it was not even on the policy radar screen of the Department of Labor and Employment.

Mr. President, Senate Bill No. 29 under Committee Report No. 38 entitled, An Act Prohibiting the Discrimination on the Employment of Any Individual on the Basis Merely of Age, seeks to precisely do that. Its provisions apply to all employers including national and local governments, labor contractors and even the trade unions themselves.

The Blas F. Ople Policy Center, a non-government organization and other major labor groups such as the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, Federation of Free Workers, Alliance of Progressive Labor, Partidong Manggagawa, and PSLINK, a federation of government unions – have expressed full support for the passage of a law to prohibit age discrimination in the workplace. They have even formed a coalition – the “Abilidad, Hindi Edad” movement. In Mandaluyong City, a member of that coalition, Councilor Jesse Cruz, filed a resolution against age discrimination that was unanimously approved by the city council.

Ladies and Gentlemen, while we respect the prerogative of an employer to choose the best fit for his or her company, their discretion is not absolute. It must be tempered with the principle of fairness and equal opportunity for all. Ability, rather than age, should be the test.

Unless the State intervenes through legislation, the exclusion of capable workers will continue. How can we obtain an inclusive growth when millions of Filipinos cannot even get past the security guard in order to submit their resumes?

Moreover, Mr. President, the passage of Senate Bill No. 29 as recommended in the report of the Senate labor committee will ease the way for our overseas Filipino workers, mga bagong bayani, to get jobs in our country, instead of constantly leaving because they are too old to gain a foothold in our own workforce.

Kasama po natin ngayon sa gallery si Sheron Lumage, isang dating OFW na mula sa Saudi Arabia. Isa siya sa hirap na hirap makahanap ng trabaho sa kabila ng masigasig na pag-aaplay sa iba’t ibang kompanya. Ang dahilan kung bakit di siya matanggap? Edad, hindi dahil sa kulang sa abilidad.

Sheron, Mr. President, is only 38 years old.

The approval of Senate bill No. 29 will enable the Philippines to join more than thirty other nations recognized around the world for upholding the ILO’s convention on equal employment opportunities for all workers.

The enactment of Senate bill No. 29 will signify to our workers that their skills are needed, and their productivity as gainfully assured individuals is valued, by the State, and our society as a whole, regardless of age. The sad truth, ladies and gentlemen, is that age discrimination also affects younger workers – who are sometimes discriminated against because of youth and appearance.

None of us are getting younger, Mr. President, although with today’s technological advances, we can look much younger than our actual years. However, the legal remedies for those seeking to work because they have so much to offer in terms of skills and experience cannot be cosmetic in nature – given the far-reaching implications that age discrimination has on our economy and the financial capacities of every Filipino household.

To be discriminated against due to a natural and unstoppable process of ageing is to impose another glass ceiling that is even just as, or even more difficult to break, than that of gender.

And if you are a woman who offered the prime years of her life looking after the family, the burden of finding work after the age of forty gets even heavier, thus forcing many of our female kababayans to risk their lives and honor as domestic workers in the Middle East.

Age discrimination is also one of the factors why so many of our OFWs choose to remain in war-torn Syria or are hesitant to leave Libya despite the DFA’s Alert Level 3, despite serious threats to their lives.

We need to pass this law, Mr. President, to level the playing field and bring hope to those who have, due to age and nothing else, been unfairly excluded from the job hiring process.

Let this be the Senate that will finally put an end to age discrimination in the workplace.

Maraming salamat po! #

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