Return on Capital Employed (ROCE) is one of the key performance indicators of a business enterprise. If one defines ROCE as the value of goods and services generated as a result of the utilisation of capital then the return on human capital employed in the Philippines is very dismal.

Several factors contribute to this sad state of the quality of Filipino life:

Job descriptions. Consider the work performed by the armies of security guards, MMDA �Traffic Enforcers�, and domestic helpers among others. And on that note, special mention goes out to the city maintenance personnel who crawl around on their hands and knees uprooting weeds from elaborately-landscaped street dividers and sidewalks. From these examples, it is quite easy to see why we are so hard-pressed to raise salaries and wages to more decent levels.

Short-sightedness. It is not only the type of role but the quality of work performed by workers in roles that would otherwise have presented rich opportunities for personal growth and job satisfaction. The best example? Our police force. On a Saturday morning one will usually see dozens of motorbike-equipped policemen lining the main entry points to EDSA waiting to pounce on motorists who wittingly or unwittingly violate whatever traffic ordinance happens to be the most fashionable at the moment. Consider for a moment that examples of such �fashionable� traffic ordinances on various occasions included half-witted attempts at reducing traffic volume by banning vehicles on certain days based on the number combination on their license plates, high-profile crackdowns on smoke belchers, and bus priority lane systems [click here to try to understand why they fail] among others. Then observe the numerous far more life-threatening traffic violations that go unnoticed by these same officers: vehicles jumping queue on the wrong side of the road, reckless driving, speeding, obviously drunk or drug-crazed bus and truck drivers weaving in and out of traffic, jeepneys weaving in and out of traffic (whether drugged/drunk or not), the list goes on. Measurement of the time and effort of maintaining these motorised officers on the road against the long-term results of the type of work they are ordered to focus on clearly illustrates the problem.

Arrogance. There is no dignity of labour in the Philippines and, therefore, do-it-yourself systems never take off. This is evident, for instance, in a lack of a clean-as-you go attitude in fast food customers. We Filipinos feel that cleaning up our dining area after we eat at McDonalds is beneath us. So McDonalds stores are forced to have a whole crew of busboys to clean up rubbish left by customers on the dining tables. We do not like packing up our own groceries from the check-out counter so there is a whole army of baggers who hop to it while we wait. To be fair, businesses also continue to promote such customer-indulgent levels of service at the expense of the welfare of their employees. Think of the larger salaries that could have been paid to McDonalds crews and supermarket check-out girls if we customers could contribute our share of the work and businesses spend more time thinking of creative and innovative solutions to improving customer service other than employing more labour to do ridiculous work.

Lack of fundamental training and breeding. Many business systems are bloated by draconian control measures and procedures that stunt employees� motivation to be creative and innovative. This may stem from an apparent unwillingness of managers to assign accountability to lower-level employees. They�d rather assume that the average Filipino employee is crooked or incompetent by nature and would rather have armies of them slog through bureaucratic procedures designed to assume stupidity or contain crooked behaviour. An example close to our hearts is the SM Department Store. Hundreds of six-month-contractual sales ladies barely out of their teens man the store shelves. They are great at fetching merchandise, taking them to the check out counter (instead of the customer doing it himself), arranging and re-arranging the store shelves, etc. Try seeking a more complex form of assistance from one of them and the nature of their automaton-like work is manifested in the blank and tired gaze you get and the shallow level of merchandise knowledge and customer relations skills they exhibit.

The situation described in the SM example may have come about for a number of reasons:

1. Store management considers customers to be either too loutish not to steal or make a mess of the merchandise as they sift through them or too stupid to shop without an assistant continuously looking over their shoulder. It doesn�t take an expert to shop for CDs, for example, and yet in most music stores, you�d find at least one sales attendant for every three metres of CD racking.

2. Store management thinks that new recruits are just too hopeless to train. How could store management get around to teaching higher-level customer relation skills (just look them up on any retail sales textbook) to new recruits, if even basic social graces are still lacking? Basics such as smiling, saying �how are you?�, �please�, �thank you�, and �pardon me� (in both Tagalog and English), looking people in the eye and showing interest when you converse with them, among others, are skills that Filipinos don�t seem to acquire in schools any more. Where one does hear such phrases, they are parroted in an annoying and obviously drill-programmed manner � further evidence that these habits were not ingrained during formative years [or because we still have to make up our minds as to what the medium of instruction should be?].

From the above scenarios it might be easy to conclude that Filipinos expect very little from one another in terms of accountability, breeding or work quality and, for that matter, have a very low regard for one another. But before one does so, consider some examples that might prove otherwise:

- The jeepney fare collection system depends largely on the passengers� initiative to pay accurately and in a timely manner without need for demand.

- Neighbourhood convenience or �sari-sari� stores extend undocumented credit to regular customers as part of their normal operations.

- Sidewalk vendors allow their customers to pick up cigarette sticks from their containers while dropping their payment straight into their coin bins (after which verification of the amount paid would be impossible)

- Neighbourhood sheriffs (Barangay Tanods) are able to provide decent law enforcement and civil mediating services within their small capacities.

There are many more such examples of all Filipino systems that (surprise, surprise!) actually work based on cooperation, trust, and community spirit in small scales around the islands. What does this indicate of Philippine society as a whole? This is a simple question with a complex answer for which we attempt to explore in three approaches:

Fundamental systemic flaws in our society
Gaping wealth disparities
Failure of the education system

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