Senator Win Gatchalian has called on the labor department to fast track a detailed program that would assist Filipino workers who could potentially be displaced by the closure of Philippine Overseas Gaming Operators (POGOs) in the event that they are banned in the country.
While the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has already said it is looking at how it can assist Filipino POGO workers who might lose their jobs should POGOs get banned in the country, Gatchalian emphasized there is a need to come up with a meaningful and detailed program for them including the retooling and upskilling of their skills. An estimated 22,000 Filipinos are currently employed by POGO operators in the country.
“While we do not expect an abrupt displacement of POGO workers, it is important that immediate assistance or intervention is readily available for these Filipino workers to find replacement jobs as soon as possible,” Gatchalian said.
For instance, the labor department could provide a mechanism that would directly engage displaced POGO workers with other industries such as the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector, the senator said.
He pointed out that the local BPO industry, which has been existing in the country for the past 20 years, currently employs around 1.5 million Filipinos and posts an annual growth rate of 8%. The industry is expected to post a higher growth of 10% in the next 5 to 10 years, which means more jobs for Filipinos.
On the other hand, the number of accredited service providers of licensed POGOs has gone down from 2019 to 2022. There were 231 accredited service providers of POGOs in 2019 and 123 to date, based on data coming from the Philippine Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR).
“It can be gleaned from available data that BPO is a growing industry, and we can encourage our people to pursue employment in this industry. By comparison, the POGO industry is declining even after we have put in place a tax regime that legalized their operations. It is obvious the POGO industry is not worth pursuing as a sustainable industry in terms of providing employment to our people,” Gatchalian said.
He explained that the majority of those currently employed by POGOs are skilled workers such as those working in customer relations, strategic support providers, IT support providers, and gaming software platform providers, among others.