- Philippine Azkals Beat Hong Kong 1 – 0 in International Friendly
- Hong Kong OFW Shares OEC Ordeal in Manila
- Pinoys in HK Seeking Jobs in Canada File Complaints Against Pacific Management
- Philippine Flag Day at Site Where First PHL Flag Was Sewn
- 157 HK-based OFWs Pass Teacher Licensure Exams
- Despite Complainant’s Retraction, POEA Cancels License Of Erring Recruiter Deploying HSWs To Hong Kong
- HK Foreign Domestic Workers to Demand $4,500 Wage
- Pinoy Tourists in HK Deny Using Fake Credit Cards
- All Pro Staffing, ABC Manpower Agency Lose License Over Excessive Fees
- Elderly Pinoy Couple in HK Gets Probation for Theft
Filipino Migration in Challenging Times
IN THE high-profile coverage of conflicts in Arab states and earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan, the fate of Filipino migrants is often left out of the story.However, it is important to consider the consequences and opportunities that crises around the world pose for the Philippines. Whether the occasion is one of celebration or of emergency, many of our families depend on migrant members abroad as lifelines. I was a beneficiary of remittances, and I would not be where I am without the support of my family. Remittances, given and received by my family and millions of Filipino households, have become integral to our country’s macro-economic development. These contributions comprise more than 12 percent of the country’s GDP, which is a large proportion of the domestic economy when compared to the three largest recipients of remittances in the world: India, China and Mexico. Most of the money is spent on personal consumption, such as basic needs, and very little is invested or saved.
Recent political unrest and natural disasters are displacing thousands of OFWs, who are now effectively jobless and may be unable to support their families in the long run. The Philippine government will now spend millions in repatriation efforts. Then, it will need to consider how to absorb an influx of returning migrants into the domestic economy, or find a way to channel them to other countries. For repatriated citizens, it’s hard to imagine how they will make a living at home; they left the Philippines precisely because there are little to no opportunities available domestically due to high unemployment and underemployment, as well as low wages and atrocious benefits.
The vulnerability of Filipinos abroad and the uncertainty of their contributions during crises reveal that the costs of receiving remittances are getting higher for families and for the Philippine government. Although it is doubtful that the country can do without income earned from abroad, I believe the government should consider measures which reduce dependency on migration and remittances. In the wake of global instability and intensifying economic competition, the future of Philippine development and security lies in a strong domestic economy that provides professional opportunities within the country for all of its citizens. It is time to start attracting migrants back to the country and retain workers who desire better possibilities than those they now face in the Philippines.
Let me propose three initiatives for the Philippine government in order to lead our countrymen and women toward a more prosperous future.
First, in the short term, the Philippines should couple a plan for the repatriation of migrants with job creation and labor improvement strategies. Migrants should be given employment services with wages and benefits that are competitive to their previous work. Simultaneously, the government should enact legislation that improves wages and labor protections for everyone, so that the Philippines becomes a more attractive place to work. Additionally, a stronger system for career placement and mobility should be created so that Marketing majors don’t end up on the sales floor at a retail store or English majors as call center agents. Valuable talent is being wasted on low-skilled jobs. Short-term incentives to create jobs and improve labor conditions keep talent and skills in the Philippines and accommodate migrants who are caught between crises.
For the longer term, the government should find ways to formally channel remittances toward infrastructure and human development. Remittances have spurred a consumerist culture, with “malling” as a popular hobby among Filipinos. Meanwhile, roads remain congested no matter how many highways are built, health services are inadequate and the educational system underperforms in relation to other countries. Besides encouraging people to buy a new cell phone every time money is wired, the government should consider plans to get Filipinos to invest in better roads, hospitals, and schools. One strategy would be to create a Public Remittance Fund which would allow migrants to invest their money in different government projects. Migrants should expect their savings to earn interest, but part of the “earnings” would flow to the entire society. Not only do migrants and their families get new and improved services, they also make income out of their investment. India is a good model for such a fund, and Greece is about to follow suit.
A second long-term initiative would be to attract skilled migrants back to the country by means of special training exchanges, getting them to teach at educational institutions, or by supporting especially entrepreneurial migrants. Skilled Filipinos from abroad, especially professionals, can serve as valuable sources for knowledge transfers, as they would impart innovative lessons to their colleagues. Much of that is already happening in India and China, where recent graduates from universities abroad, as well as professionals, are given incentives to return and work in the country as entrepreneurs. Harnessing skills that Filipinos acquire overseas would accelerate domestic innovation and open further opportunities for the unemployed and underemployed.
Filipinos are known to be industrious people, and our families have contributed to economic growth in places like Dubai, Los Angeles, London and Sydney. Our personal circumstances, for better or for worse, are due to labor migration and remittances. But given the political conflicts abroad, as well as the uncertainties brought about by natural and economic crises, the cost of these remittances are higher than ever. The Philippines is in a position to turn this problem into an opportunity. Just imagine the wealth of knowledge and experience from around the world converging in the Philippines and transforming the country into a “global nation” should our OFWs return. Changing decades of migration and dependence on income earned abroad is an enormous challenge, yet it is one that presents great rewards. If brought together under the right conditions and incentives, our people can build a country that is economically competitive and self-sufficient, with opportunities for Filipinos to raise families without the risks and costs of migration.