Alejandro, 71, The Philippines

Alejandro, 71, is one of the 10.5 million Filipinos who work in the informal sector.

Alejandro, 71, has to keep working to afford food. A pension would make a huge difference.

(c) Cecile Bilbao/HelpAge International

Alejandro, 71, has to keep working to afford food. A pension would make a huge difference.

He has been a street cigarette vendor for two years. Before he started selling cigarettes, he worked in a market for ten years carrying and transporting goods.

Alejandro said: "I get easily tired now. I can no longer carry heavy loads. I have to sell stuff on the streets to earn a living. I don't have much of a choice."

Street vendors like Alejandro, as well as other informal workers like self-employed farmers and fishermen have little access to benefits, including health insurance and pensions. Yet, they comprise almost half of the entire labour force in the Philippines.

Selling on the street is better than sitting at home

Alejandro depends on his daily earnings to survive.

"On a good day, I earn around 200 Pesos (US$4), though there are times when I go home with only 30 Pesos (less than a dollar)."

This amount doesn't pay for his medical needs, but allows him to scrape together three meals a day.

For older people like Alejandro, informal working conditions make their physical and economic problems worse. He said: "Sitting here on a bench is a lot easier than carrying heavy loads in the market. Selling on the street is far better than just sitting at home."

Although Alejandro often suffers from nausea and muscle pain, he still manages to wake up at 4am and walk 1.5 kilometres to work every day.

Alejandro is full of hope that when the Expanded Senior Citizen's Act is passed, poor older people, like him, will receive a monthly pension of 500 Pesos (US$11).

He said: "If I received a pension from the government, I wouldn't have to sell cigarettes and candy on the street. I would definitely stop working."

Since we spoke to Alejandro, the Expanded Senior Citizens Act has been passed.

This is huge victory for older people and our partner the Coalition of Services of the Elderly (COSE) who have been campaigning for pensions for older people for years.

We hope that the next time we speak to Alejandro he will be receiving a pension and finally be able to stop working.

Donate to HelpAge now!

"I get tired now and cannot carry heavy loads anymore. If I received a pension from the government, I wouldn't have to sell cigarettes and candy on the street. I would definitely stop working."

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