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HOUSE OKAYS BILL ON LEGAL, LABOR FRAMEWORK FOR ‘GIG’ ECONOMY

The House of Representatives has passed on second reading before adjourning sine die a measure that aims to establish employment standards in the so-called “gig” economy populated by online-based freelance employees, in a bid to generate more jobs and career workers in the digital sector as the country transitions to the “new normal” way of transacting business and services. 

This measure, House Bill (HB) No. 6926, also aims  to enhance the competitiveness of Filipino  digital workers through access to necessary training, skills development and scholarship programs, according to its lead author Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte.

Integrating workers in the “gig economy” into the overall labor regulatory framework will “further the government’s industrialization policy.”

HB 6926 is a consolidation of  HB 6759 filed by Deputy  Speaker LRay 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 Covid-19 pandemic struck. 

The measure is a counterpart to Senate Bill (SB) No. 1469 filed by  Senator Sonny Angara. 

The number of Filipino freelancers and firms that sub-contract freelancers has been significantly growing since 2010, Villafuerte said, 

Citing PayPal’s 2018 Global Freelancer Insights Report, Villafuerte said around 2% or some 1.5 to 2 million Filipinos are or have engaged in one form or another of freelance work. 

In 2019, the Philippines was ranked as the fastest-growing market for freelancers and landed 6th place on a Forbes 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, Villafuerte added.  

“The  flexible work hours 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) is required  to craft a a masterplan 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 a digital career workers, including the compliance by employers  with the prescribed minimum wage rates,. 

Villafuerte said 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 training; 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.

A study has shown  that Filipino freelancers earn a monthly average of about P39,000

The bill also provides for incentives to digital workers and freelancers in the form of scholarships, training, subsidies, grants-in-aid, and start-up support.

The DICT, Departments of Budget Management (DBM) and of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) 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 infrastructures 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.”

He said  integrating workers in the “gig economy” into the overall labor regulatory framework and providing them the necessary support from the government will “further the government’s industrialization policy by maintaining a policy environment conducive to and supportive of innovations and creative business strategies.” 

The National Digital Careers Act will complement  his other House-approved proposed legislation such as the Bangko sa Baryo Bill (HB 6924) and the Electronic Government Bill (HB 6027).

Villafuerte and Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano are the lead authors of the substitute bill (HB 6864) on the proposed “Better Normal” Act, which provides for, among others, the speedy implementation of  E-Government, the National Identification (ID) Act and the National Broadband Plan (NBP).

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 social distancing and other safety protocols to avoid transmission of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

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