How an Ambulance Made Me Realize the Edge of Filipinos on Elance and Guru

I have an aunt with an amputated right leg. She is brought back and forth to the hospital once a week during and after the operation. She is entirely sensitive even when she had 2 legs making those around her uncomfortable and irritable. With that, they planned on just calling an ambulance instead of our car to take her but the plan was immediately dismissed. 5000php (around 110USD) for a single journey ride to a hospital wasn’t at all practical for most families.

The minimum wage a day is 466php, just a little over 10USD,10252php in a month’s worth. You need 11 full working days to get 5000php. There are a lot who get more than the minimum, of course, but the upright triangle of the financial hierarchy has its biggest population on those that gain that amount, and a lot more that goes lower than that. One single meal enough to fill averages on 50php, 150php for 3 meals. That’s already 316php left if you’re single. But if we were to compute other necessities such as electric and water bills, house rent and others, I think there’s pretty much nothing left on the month’s wage.

When I read somewhere that calling an ambulance in the US costs roughly 600USD. I was more in shock than awe on how people are able to pay that. 26000php for a ride?! I rather carry the patient barefoot. For the average man, that’s already almost 3 month’s worth of sweat and tears. But for the middle-class men, it isn’t so little either. Then it hit me.

Despite the seemingly unfair minimum wage, the cost of living in the Philippines is not as extravagant than it is in the US or other countries. 600USD might be too much to spend on a ride to the hospital, but it’s more than enough to sustain a living for roughly 3 months for your less-capable citizens.

When I got myself in Elance, I did a bit of research on how to price my services. I encountered hourly offers as low as $5 to as high as over $100. But despite the significant difference, those that offer $5 come from countries such as the Philippines and India, where the cost of living is so much easier. $5 is already almost half a whole day’s work. So for people who come from these countries feel the easy-money coming their way with such offers. A little over 2 hours and you already get a minimum wage whereas a full time job would require at least 8 hours of work to produce that. How convenient, yes?

I had no full-proof idea on how to price my writing and I relied on research. So when I was offered by a client a proposed bid that priced on a $0.05 per word, I was in awe, especially when that was in my first week on Elance. I was already computing how much I’ll be earning, converting to Philippine Peso as I did. I was supposed to write a 5000 word short story, and with that price, it was already $250. That’s already 11000php, over minimum. Though I was having an above minimum wage when I was in work full time, $250 wasn’t so bad when I was only going do it in a relaxed and an non-pressured maximum of 3 days of writing while I’m chatting on Facebook and having short breaks every 30-minutes. Again, convenient, isn’t it?

Then I came to the point I was personally interested in investing $10 to see my competitors’ bids because I didn’t want to charge so low compared to what the average price is. I read through on the Elance blog/forum about the advantages till I found a comment that kind of influenced me to write this post. He raises the idea of people charging a service for $50 he wouldn’t even be doing for less than $500 or it didn’t matter whether they can adjust their price to compete with competitors because there are still people who charge $5 for an hourly rate coming from those with cost of living 1/4 from how it is in the US.

Point is, living in the Philippines, despite our own personal issues with the country, is already beneficial enough for freelance sites such as Elance and Guru. The cost of living is so much lower even for the upper class so Filipinos can basically drop their prices down and be content so long as it costs higher than what they get in a full time job. Although there are also lots of employers who prefer US-based services, there are still lots of opportunities that allows non-US based employees or deem cheaper cost and Philippines is just one of the countries who can offer that.

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