Philippine Science Letters
vol. 5 | no. 1 | 2012
published online January 30, 2012


Shift work research in the Philippines:
current state and future directions

by Jingky P. Lozano-Kühne*, Maria Eliza R. Aguila, Gayline F. Manalang, Jr., Richard Bryann Chua, Roselyn S. Gabud, Eduardo R. Mendoza



Shift work has been reported to affect the worker’s health and well-being. However, the many interacting factors involved in shift work make it difficult to understand the mechanism underlying its effects. The currently rising demand for shift workers in the Philippine business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, particularly in the contact center sector, has spurred increased interest in research on the effects of shift work on Filipino workers. The fact that shift work affects employees’ health and well-being, and in turn affects economic productivity, gives enough reason for doing shift work studies. In this paper, we review research publications, project reports and theses (graduate and undergraduate) to determine the current state of knowledge on shift work in the Philippines and to define future research directions. Results of this review indicate that many aspects of shift work have been explored in studies in the Philippines, but there is still a big gap in knowledge that needs to be addressed. While there are studies that investigated health effects, job satisfaction, job performance, lifestyle, risk behaviors and other topics, the number of studies done in the country is still quite limited and the variables investigated do not allow comparison with situations in other countries. There is still a need for more detailed studies to be able to provide empirical evidence on shift work’s effects on Filipino workers and to be able to make relevant interventions to improve the workers’ health and well-being. In terms of research questions, there are no local studies that looked into chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer. There are also no published studies yet that investigated the Filipino chronotype in relation to shift work. The chronotype characterizes how an individual’s internal biological clock synchronizes to the external clock. The importance of chronotype in shift work research has been shown in studies in other countries. However, the chronotype variation among Filipinos is not yet known. Other untapped topics on shift work research in the Philippines include light and shift work, speech ability and shift work, actual physical work load and time pressure, exposure to heat, dust or other hazards during shift work, dermatological problems related to shift work, genes and shift work, social and psychological aspects of shift work and long term effects of shift work. We also included here a framework of research approaches on how to thoroughly investigate the effects of shift work on the worker’s health and well-being. The framework was adopted from the European project consortium called ClockWORK which aimed to optimize the individual’s structure of work, free time and sleep. An offshoot of the ClockWORK project is the PhilSHIFT initiative. PhilSHIFT is an interdisciplinary group of researchers from the University of the Philippines and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München studying chronotype variation among Filipinos and shift work in the Philippines.