I’ve just returned from an amazing week at our offices in the Philippines. The week coincided with the 30th anniversary of the People Power Revolution. The People Power revolution took place in 1986 when the Filipino people rose up against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, ending 21 years of authoritarian rule and forming the foundation of today’s democracy. Marcos is the famously corrupt Filipino leader whose policies impoverished the people, while he amassed a private fortune most famously exemplified by his wife Imelda’s collection of 10,000 designer shoes. In 1983, Marcos’s most prominent opponent, Benigno Aquino, was tragically assassinated. In 1986 Aquino’s widow, Corazon “Cory” Aquino, rose up and led a peaceful revolution to topple Marcos.
Like me, most of the people who work at TaskUs were not even born when Marcos was kicked out of power. Our team has grown up in a fledgling, free state. Never having lived under a dictator, it is easy to forget how lucky we are to be free.
Since Marcos, the government of the Philippines has been far from perfect, but the results show great strides of improvement. Under Marcos, the Philippines economy lagged well behind the rest of Asia. From 1970 to 1980, the GDP grew at 3.4% annually. Meanwhile, Thailand grew at 5.1%, Indonesia grew at 5.7% and Singapore grew at 7.7%. In 1984 and 1985, the final two years of Marcos rule, the Filipino economy actually shrank by a whopping 15%.
Today, things are very different. Since 2010, under President Noynoy Aquino – the son of Benigno and Cory Aquino – the economy has grown at an average rate of 6.23% each year.
What does this mean for you? According to the World Bank, the average Filipino has seen their real income nearly triple from 1986 (the last year of Marco’s rule) to today. A Filipino making PhP25,000 a month today (approximately $7,000 a year at today’s exchange rate, including a government mandated annual 13th month bonus), would be earning PhP9,600 a month (approximately $2,600 a year) if Marcos were still in power.
This growth has been driven by a number of things: the opening of the Philippines markets to foreign trade, the reduction of corruption and a focus on job creation best exemplified by the Business Process Outsourcing industry. In the year 2000 the Philippines government decided to invest heavily in attracting BPO jobs. Prior to this the industry barely existed in the country and most outsourcing work was done in India. Today, the BPO industry employs over 1 million Filipinos and will contribute $25 billion to the GDP of the country in 2016.
There is little doubt that the 20- and 30-somethings working at TaskUs today have it way better than their parents did. But with People Power, comes People Responsibility. As the heir’s of our parents’ courage, it is our responsibility to continue the charge of the People Power revolution regardless of where we are.
We we must give voice to our political will by voting. The upcoming Philippine Presidential election on May 9, 2016 is your opportunity to do this. We must invest in our own education and the education of our children. In the coming weeks TaskUs will open the TaskUs Scholars program for applications. This program pays for the private primary or secondary education of the children of TaskUs teammates. If you are a TaskUs teammate who has been on the team for over a year, I encourage you to apply! Finally, we must never accept the status quo. While huge strides have been made, the Philippines is still racked with challenges from a dependence on the remittances of Overseas Filipino Workers, to the government’s underinvestment in education, to the traffic that clogs the arteries of Metro Manila. It is time that the children of the People Power Revolution stood up and took responsibility for the future.