Random Thoughts

The Poor and the Middle Class During COVID19

April 7, 2020

By the time the second batches of relief goods from the government were being distributed, I was already hearing it from friends on social media. We were on the third week on Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) due to COVID-19 pandemic. The government helps provide food to the lowest income households, as the government should. But those who held a regular job and a steady source of income just three weeks ago were starting to ask – or demand – for their taxes to work for them, too.

No-work-no-pay is a loose term nowadays. It can refer to people who are literally like that: self-employed ambulant vendors, public utility vehicle drivers, project-based, and contractual workers. Those who are employed by private companies but who are still under the probationary period by the time the ECQ was declared are no-work-no-pay employees, too. They are also called “irregular” employees.

Now, those regular employees working in private companies which do not or cannot allow work from home setup, are starting to refer to themselves as no work-no-pay employees, too. One reason is because, as per our labor law, the situation calls for them to file leaves or else they won’t get paid, too.

The most I hear about the number of leaves per employee is 15 days sick Leave and 15 days vacation leave. Few fortunate employees get additional one day leave for birthday and wedding anniversary if the company is generous. That’s a total of 32 days of leaves to be spent during ECQ, granted that prior to March 15, an employee has not used any of those leaves yet and granted that they do not have plans to use them after ECQ. That should be enough if the ECQ will only last until April 14, and not be extended as opposed to what the President said last night which he is “inclined” to do. UPDATE: The ECQ is extended up to April 30, 2020.

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That could be a reason why the lower middle class were starting to air their side during the third week of quarantine. Some of them will not receive the normal paycheck they have accustomed their budget and lifestyle to. Lifestyles which you can judge according to your own moral compass but sure there will always be people who will not be content on living life day in and day out like the one satirically being portrayed below:

One governor from the south, brave enough to risk being called an elitist in this country which seem to glorify poverty to the roofs, already wrote to the government to give portions of the subsidy program to the middle class, too.

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are being hit, too. Businesses have its ups and downs, we know that, but do we know that even with private companies, there are those which are merely surviving month in and month out, too? The economic impact of this ECQ will last long after the ECQ is lifted. It could last years after this entire pandemic is over and SMEs will be more vulnerable.

Hierarchy of needs. Sure, it will always be “life” first before “economy”. Just a gentle reminder though, that if and when we get out of this crisis alive, we have “quality of life” to think of. The government should have more concrete plans of allowing its citizens to put food on the table in the long run, and not just focus on distributing a few kilos of rice and canned goods every other week or so.

There’s extreme generalization from both side of the fence: Middle class accusing the poor that they depend on the government for food but have money for liquor and gambling. They say poor people did not secure for themselves a stable job for the first place. It can go as far back as poor people choosing not to do good in school.

The poor now can be heard castigating the middle class who they think were just spending money on wants prior to the pandemic. Middle class people brag about the food they eat, their vacations online, but are now relying, too, on the government to survive, according to them. Generalizations like these, as in most political standpoint, are seldom helpful.

Everyone is affected. Everyone, although in different ways, is inconvenienced by something which has not happened since the Black Plague. What people from all walks of life should do, even those who are classified poor, is to refrain from living in a bubble. The way I see it, some people from any economy class that exist, tend to think that even during pandemics they circumstance is entitled to so much more than that of other people.

It’s Holy Tuesday today. In one article I wrote as an entry to Connected Women’s Magazine, I enumerated five ways to Make Holy Week Holy during these extraordinary times. To supplement, let me paraphrase our bishop’s homily last Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion. There is distributive justice where taxpayers think they deserve more than tax-exempted indigents. Then there’s social justice where those who have more than enough food for the table, should at least waive even what is rightfully due to them, for the sake of those who have less in life but have more in law. As Christians we should opt for the exercise of the latter.

As to the government, the middle class will appreciate it if at least they will be given a choice to receive or not. Tax is compulsory and the middle class oblige but darn, it feels good to be asked every once in a while.

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