With 228,403 COVID-19 cases as of press time, the Philippines currently has the highest number of coronavirus infections in Southeast Asia. Continuing the fight on the frontlines are healthcare workers in hospitals that have been buckling from the increase in patients since the outbreak started earlier this year. It’s a tough job that’s made even worse by the fact that those in the medical field are paid much less than their counterparts in other Southeast Asian countries.
A study released by information aggregator iPrice Group on Wednesday, Sept. 2 shows that Filipino nurses and medical technologists earn the least, compared to those in five other countries in the region.
The research was based on the salaries of mid-level frontliners in the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Data from Salary Expert, a company associated with the Economic Research Institute, showed that on average, experienced registered nurses in the Philippines earn around $848 per month, while medical technologists earn even less, at $618.
“Working in a government hospital that pays roughly 30k (around $618) a month is not and will not be enough to cover the risks we take day in and day out,” Daniel Joshua Singson, a registered Filipino nurse told VICE.
“Moreover, seeing that we have nurses wanting to serve our country but do not feel encouraged is a very disheartening and very real truth.”
Many frontliners share the same sentiments as Singson.
“It's really disheartening to hear the news, but this has always been a reality for us nurses,” TJ Vasquez, a Filipino registered nurse, told VICE.
Just last month, the story of a nurse who died of COVID-19 before getting her hazard pay went viral. Her daughter later claimed the money but reportedly only received less than half of what her mother expected.
Despite the similar costs of living, the iPrice study found that those working the same jobs in Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia are earning much more than those in the Philippines. Even before the pandemic, many Filipinos entered the medical field just to migrate to other countries for greener pastures.
Compared to the Philippines, Malaysian medical technologists earn 178 percent more. Thai and Indonesian registered nurses earn around 104 percent and 95 percent more than Filipino nurses, respectively. Vietnam is ranked just above the Philippines, and yet the salary of Filipino registered nurses is still 57 percent less, in comparison. At the top of the list is Singapore, where nurses earn around $4,900 or 486 percent more than those in the Philippines.
The problem of underpaid frontliners is not exclusive to the medical industry. The study found that supermarket stock clerks, security guards, delivery truck driver helpers, and warehouse workers in the Philippines are also some of the most underpaid. In most cases, only slightly above the lowest-ranked country, Vietnam.
While these workers earn an estimated $600 to $2,000 in the four other countries in the research, those in the Philippines take home less than $500. Supermarket stock clerks earn around $281, security guards $325, warehouse workers $306, and delivery truck driver helpers $490.
All of these are below or just above how much the average Filipino household spends in a month, which the Philippine Statistical Authority placed at $418.