There are many reasons Filipinos work abroad. Whether it’s their first choice or just forced to do so, there are many underlying reasons behind such OFW phenomenon.
Leaving the country means detachment from family members and be contented with long distance calls, SMS or instant messaging conversations as primary means of communication. It also means depriving oneself of guiding children and watch them grow. Missing favorite TV shows, going to family hangouts on weekends and many other things are sacrificed in exchanges of life abroad. Let’s identify the different reasons why a family man, a loving mother or an only child has to leave home and find work abroad.
1. Unstable economic situation in the Philippines
There is a longstanding lack of confidence in the government’s effort to secure a better future for its citizens may have driven many Filipinos to seek employment overseas. Corruption, gross inefficiency in government functions, relatively high tax rate, and no sound fiscal policy has put a damper on hopes of an ambitious Filipino, who now thinks the grass is greener elsewhere but home.
Photo credit: Jonathan Tribiana
2. High unemployment rate in the Philippines
Perennial high unemployment rate has been a chronic problem in a country that produces almost a million college graduates on courses that are deemed popular but whose demand is on decline. Fresh graduates join the labor force, thereby increasing the competition for jobs available. Worse for elderly job applicants, many companies seek fresh graduates instead of talent qualifications probably because salary and benefits are not good enough for experienced work force.
3. Low salary offered by local companies
The single biggest reason why Filipinos are willing to go abroad for work is the generally low salary offered by employers in the Philippines. Even jobs that are sought after and in demand in certain parts of the world like nurses, engineers and teachers are paid poorly. Not to mention the age limit and discrimination based on which school you graduated. No wonder many would prefer to work abroad as domestic helpers or office clerks and leave their professional jobs in the Philippines because in most cases they’ll get paid higher overseas.
4. Contractual employment arrangement
The high unemployment rate in the country brings due advantage to employers who simply hire people on contractual basis. From mall sales ladies to fast food servers, the practice is widespread in the country. This brings a great deal of job insecurity for those who are employed under such conditions. Filipinos inherently don’t mind receiving basic salary, as long as there is security of tenure. However, such type of work arrangement is hard to find for many sectors, knowing that the supply of workers always outstrip the demand for their services.
5. Poor benefits for workers in the Philippines
Local employers prefer to contractual employees because it is easier to let go of them and — a labor loophole in the country — no health benefits and accident insurance coverage necessary. While the coverage of government’s social services (SSS, Pag-IBIG and PhilHealth) is generally applied as employment benefits, the monthly contribution can significantly reduce a low-paid worker’s take home pay. High unemployment rate ensures a steady flow of applicants, no matter how lame the job offer is. Such unfair situation keeps employers happy almost all the time.
6. OFWs are now more pampered
Believe it or not, OFWs are now covered by better protection, offered advantages (hotel offers only valid to OFWs, special lanes for overseas workers at airport and discounted health insurance premiums to name a few) in addition to being heralded as the nation’s new breed of heroes. Heroes in the coffers of the country, pumping in billions worth of remittance dollars. Even ABS-CBN’s TFC offers front-row seats to balikbayans just to watch Showtime.
7. It’s not so lonely to go abroad anymore
Before, going overseas is like sentencing oneself into exile to a hostile land. No friends around, will need to deal with unfamiliar language, weather and food. But now times have changed, many overseas Filipino communities have mushroomed all over the world: Tokyo, Barcelona, Sydney, Dubai, Singapore, New York and more. Cultural programs, tours of Filipino entertainers have brought the overseas Filipino workers closer to home. Not to mention the cheaper long distance rates and availability of the web to communicate with loved ones.
8. Discrimination in job hiring in the Philippines
This is a sad fact that local job applicants have to deal with. Again this has something to do with the glut of available workers willing to get paid lower salaries and not enjoy benefits and paid holidays. Employers tend to pick the “best” candidates but they’re not necessarily the most qualified for the jobs. They are usually those aged between 21 and 30, graduates of schools like University of the Philippines or Ateneo de Manila, and are at least five foot tall for women, even if the job nature doesn’t require them. It’s the preference of age and pleasing personality over skill and competitiveness. The process leaves qualified but overage applicants in the dark and decide to go abroad.
- High Withholding Tax. The Philippines has a high income tax rates for employees. In many cases they are withheld from salaries that if the advertised salary is P10,000, take home page might just be around P3,500 per 15th and 30th after all sorts of BIR withholding taxes, SSS premium, Pag-IBIG fund and other monthly obligations to the government.
- Salary abroad is often paid once every month. Getting paid once a month helps workers forecast expenses, set aside for savings and other long term plans. We guess it still depends on every worker who wish to save regardless if salaries are paid every day or once a month.
There are many obvious reasons Filipinos wish to go abroad — we see a lot of fellowmen apply for jobs even with jobs that don’t require much education (see comments for list of willing applicants) — for the purpose of earning more or securing better future. But in the long-term what does this OFW phenomenon bring to our country and to the next generation of Filipinos? The road ahead may be murky and we don’t know what’s in store, but at the moment, while we are still physically able, we do our best to secure the future. And that can only be through going abroad.