Philippines: Engineers’ group calls for wage increase to address inflation, arrest ‘brain drain’

MANILA, Philippines — An engineers’ group on Tuesday called on companies to give higher compensation to engineers and scientists, especially for entry-level workers, to help them keep up with the rising cost of living in the country and to retain top talent.

Pro-People Engineers and Leaders (PROPEL), an organization composed of engineers and those promoting the welfare of the profession, estimates that the salary of entry-level engineers in the Philippines ranges between P16,000 to P22,000.

This, the group said, is hardly a livable wage amid boiling inflation.

Outside the capital region, PROPEL estimates that salaries for entry-level engineering roles are much lower, ranging from P10,000 to P15,000. The group said engineers are not properly compensated for “workloads beyond their capacity and job description, long working hours, and unsafe working conditions.”

“Less expenses for basic needs such as housing, utilities, transportation, and required monthly contributions, engineers are left with almost nothing,” PROPEL spokesperson JA Montalban said in a statement.

Founded in 2021, PROPEL started with a little more than 20 members. The group had since grown with more than 35 members as of reporting, and is open to more engineers and engineering advocates who want to join.

According to PROPEL, it would likely take more than 10 years for engineers to see a return on investment on their education, which could cost around P400,000-P600,000 in mid-tier universities, and around P800,000-P1,000,000 or higher in prestigious universities in the country.

The slow increase in salary of engineers is stoking a talent flight, PROPEL said, one that would be felt in the years to come if left unresolved. Government data showed that, on average, engineers accounted for 28% of migrant Filipino workers in the field of science and technology (S&T) from 1998 to 2011, second to nurses and midwives who made up 59% of S&T Filipino professionals abroad.

“The prevalent low salary of entry-level engineers is one of the reasons why our engineers prefer to work abroad rather than stay in the country and contribute their skills to national development,” Montalban said.

“It is time for engineers to voice their opinions and join the call to push the government for a substantial salary increase and to take concrete actions to lower commodities prices,” he added.