Saturday, April 16, 2011

Work 2

    jdomawa © 2011* All Rights Reserved


Four letters. Big word.

Rough calculations based on the average lifespan of a human being who retires at 65 with a forty hour workload per week translates to 91,250 hours. Considering that we use 205,000 hours asleep during an average lifetime, there is little left to do anything else. That’s why once people start working, they realize that life is very short.

I am not writing this, however to dissuade anyone from working. Work is a necessary component of life. It is the source of our physical sustenance, without which we cannot really enjoy life. I write this for fellow kababayans who are working their lives off here.

Most kababayans (I refrain from using the term Filipinos since technically many here are no longer Filipino citizens) work their ass off holding two or more jobs. Aside from the regular eight hour main job, people here usually have a second job plus another part-time venture on the side. Sleep usually is shortened to six hours and that number is a padded value since many actually opt for less. I guess one cannot deny the kababayan’s industriousness when it comes to work.

But why? That’s the big question. Why hold two or more jobs? Why sacrifice sleeping time?

There are a lot of reasons. The foremost perhaps is because of debt. First is the debt back in the old country. After all, the path to here is paved with a small fortune. If one is diligent, these debt can be paid in more or less two years.
Second, is the debt to family. One cannot remove this from the Asian psyche. Remittance powers the Philippine economy whether we like it or not. Family connections remain strong among kababayans and the family left behind. And often remittance is 2/3 the monthly salary which leaves the sender with a pittance of an allowance (while back home the child or the spouse spends the hard earned money with reckless abandon). To make ends meet here, one has to hold a second job.

Third, Canada is a country where everyone is expected to be in debt. This is something that new people fail to realize. The economy is primarily supported by mortgage loans and credit card debt. This is the reason, a housing collapse fuels an economic nightmare in the western world. Debt servicing eats at least half of the monthly net pay or sometimes even more particularly when one has a house mortgage or a condo mortgage. To fulfill one’s obligation and to maintain a solid credit history, one is required to pay this off at the allotted time.

Fourth, there are the inevitable expenses that provides for basic needs. One, there is food (which is relatively abundant and cheap-based on the money here that is, not by the old standards), then there is the car insurance (which is a must), then the personal insurance (which is another must considering that life is unpredictable), then the investment portfolio (which no one wants but which is necessary for the long term picture), the RRSP (private retirement fund which is a tax exemption and a necessary thing to fulfill for one’s retirement), and then the data plan (cellphones, net, googlemaps and mobile FB and email plus the calls).

And then of course, the dreaded taxes. Both in the purchases you make and your salary.

These expenses add up so people are backed up to a wall and must then bite the bullet and sacrifice their time and bodies to hold down more jobs than the main one they have. And this is worse when you are married and gets worse again when you decide to have kids. Now I understand why the birthrate in the developed countries are dropping: the expenses to raise children and the toll it takes to support a brood is immense. The lesser children you have, the better. Many opt to remain childless.

What is problematic is the fact that the routine of people here is job, sleep, eat, commute and then the cycle repeats itself again, day in and day out. Only a few free their Sundays for church and only a few days a year are allotted for leisure (which is not true for everyone). Workers are tied down by financial obligations and remittances and if looked at in an objective manner, it is a pitiable existence. Life means so much more than this. Life is so much more than this.
I have a four day shifting job: 12 hours straight labor then afterwards I get four days off. It’s a nice arrangement. I have time to rest and do my writing. My pay based on old standards is great (but compared to industry standards, below par). It has the capability to provide me with the financial freedom to explore my dreams. Compared to most here, however, it is considered average which is just above the minimum mark. I am tempted to get a second job (the lure of having my own abode in two years time is tantalizing as is the Toyota Tundra that is parked in the Macleod lot) but I balk at the very idea of spending my waking hours pursuing material things. And seeing kababayans drawn out faces at the end of the day and seeing them grapple with the stress that comes with a life focused on work is unnerving to say the least.

Life should be a balance. Work and leisure must go hand in hand. What use is it to have a fat bank account when one cannot enjoy it’s benefits? What use is a huge remittance when the people receiving it waste it with spending sprees that defy common logic? What is the use of having a house or a condo if it is not lived on? Never mind the taxes because we see where they are going or the expenses for other necessities since we really use them. And insurance is a necessity.

I guess what I’m saying is that we need to do some reflections. For the workers who devote their lives to the pursuit of money, that they take stock of themselves and their goals and that they should reflect on what they want for themselves. It’s ok to be a bit selfish for once.

For the people supported by them, that they reflect on the toil of their family. Money is not easy. For their children, study well and insure that they have a career that will allow you to reciprocate their sweat in the future. Your mothers and fathers are doing this for you. Let their sacrifices not be in vain.

For their spouses left behind, love them and seek not other pastures. Honor the matrimonial vow you made. Save the money sent to you or spend them wisely. Never, ever think that money is very fast here. You don’t know the sacrifices that your wives or husbands do here. The mind is a fragile thing and it goes both ways.

For other family members, cash doesn’t grow on trees. There is a limit as to how much money people can earn and for god’s sake, you have two hands to work. Don’t expect your siblings to earn for you. And look above, out of a lifetime, a lot is spent working. That can break a person, literally.

Live a balanced life...


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