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Compensate Underpaid, Overworked Filipino Engineers

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

The presumption that engineering is a lucrative career in the Philippines has long been contradicted and labeled as a “scam” by entry-level workers in this profession. It is well past time that engineers, especially fresh graduates, are given their long overdue increase in compensation along with the enforcement of more reasonable workloads.

Engineers, irrefutably recognized for their critical role in the society as developers of safe, sustainable, and innovative solutions, contribute to nearly all of the industries ranging from manufacturing and construction industries to research and development services. The need for a decent wage and compensation from employers appears to be beyond dispute considering their diversity in these areas, together with the increasing demand for engineers in almost all sectors. Yet, it seems like the other way around for Filipino engineers.

The salary in this field varies depending on the type of engineering profession, experience, company size, and location, among others. For chemical engineers in the Philippines, the average monthly salary ranges from ₱20,000 to ₱24,000, showing a significant gap from the pay given to the same profession abroad, with an average base salary of $6,793.

More financial opportunities are essentially why a number of Filipino engineering graduates opt to work outside the country, while some just settle for low compensation in local industries. In addition to these, some also decided to shift out of the field and pursue other professions, choosing to work on a job outside their college degree rather than doing otherwise but coupled with an unjustifiable income.

Last 2022, Pro-People Engineers and Leaders (PROPEL), an organization advocating for the rights and welfare of engineers, called for higher compensation, especially for entry-level workers amid the price hike in the Philippines. A spokesperson said that the monthly salary does not justify the amount students spend on tuition fees to finish their degree.

Majority of the more experienced engineers certainly have higher salaries. This affirms that it would, indeed, take way more than the years engineers had to study in college before they reach a return on investment. Not to mention the existing aspects uncompensated by some employers, such as unsafe working environments and unreasonable workloads, which become a reason for some to change career paths, disrupting their supposed experience-building in a particular industry.

Although there have been efforts by some companies to provide more non-wage benefits, such as transport subsidies, to attract and preserve employees, this will never keep pace with the rising cost of living expenses.

Meanwhile, the lack of engineering graduates in the country is far from the real problem. Due to the diverse and in-demand nature of the field, providing various job opportunities in several industries, the Philippines undeniably has a vast number of students pursuing engineering courses.

The challenge is for the government and employers to alleviate the decades-long problem of brain drain in the country which produces more migrants and causes slower economic development—all rooted from the low base salary, given especially to fresh graduates, linked with a taxing work environment.

As the economy progresses, new and improved solutions must also be developed. This will not be possible with a shortage of talents in the country. This is why finding solutions to reverse brain drain must be one of the priorities of the government and employers to ensure steady national growth.

A key remedy is for the government, academe, and industry to have a collaborative effort in creating additional opportunities for engineering graduates—focusing on providing works with job descriptions within their expertise—and in investing more in their employees by offering higher base salaries along with providing flexible workloads conducive to a more stress-free environment.

The exploitation of Filipino engineers must come to a stop to encourage engineering graduates to stay in their home country to contribute to national development and to discontinue the cycle of some of them wasting their time studying such a profession just to end up shifting careers.

An immediate wage hike for all employees working in this field may not seem very possible, but the message still stands clearly: the government and employers must join forces to remodify the working conditions of engineers, accompanied with justifiable compensation.

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