Why Age Discrimination Should Be Abolished in the Philippines

Many Filipinos are careful career planners. They take jobs abroad, understandably more challenging in and out of the workplace, while younger, save up and settle down back home at some point.

They look for jobs abroad soon as they have enough experience required for such overseas stints. Whether architect, diesel mechanic or sales clerk, Filipinos working abroad, more popularly called overseas Filipino workers (OFW), take the same route: finish college, get a relevant job in the Philippines, stay for a few years while starting to look for overseas opportunities, and when the right offer comes along, wave goodbye to your colleagues as one prepares for a challenging, exciting journey abroad.

However, many OFWs immediately feel the difference between what’s perceived to be life abroad and the reality even before their first day at the job. Whether at OWWA’s  Pre Departure Orientation Seminar or at the  departure gates of Ninoy Aquino Airport, they start to understand the realities of life abroad. They need to adjust to the way of life, climate, culture and deal with being away from the family for the first time as they try to fulfill their tasks at work. As careful planners, many OFWs know it’s unwise to give up, and go home back to square one because they struggle to cope with life abroad.

Instead, the more careful they plan for the future. Instead of buying new gadgets, supposedly to entertain them from their boredom and homesickness or brag about designer bags and shoes, wise OFWs get motivated to think of bigger, better plans: save up to buy a small lot to build a future house,  invest in the stock market or attend livelihood seminars sponsored by Philippine embassies or consulates. And why not? They know their stay abroad is temporary and, in some cases, uncertain. Just as ants save up for the rainy day, OFWs also prepare for challenges that lie ahead.

As the time to go home beckons, Filipinos abroad also start to think of things to do when they return to the Philippines.  Applying for loans from OWWA, put up a small business or continue to practice their profession by practicing them independently or getting a job.

That’s where their job prospects hit a snag.

OFWs are used to seeing senior citizens employed at coffee shops or fast food outlets abroad, and whose counterparts in the Philippines cannot perform not because of frail old age, but because they were never given the chance to do so. If younger applicants struggle to look for jobs, let alone the senior citizens, who are left to think they are helpless and only need to be taken cared of in a society like the Philippines where younger family members are obliged to look after their elders.

Note the age requirement as part of qualifications for jobs in the Philippines. Jobs that can be done with a wider age bracket. Why make restrictions? Maybe because there are plenty of available applicants or the salary offer is only good for people within the desired age group? Since there is no law in the Philippines that prohibits this practice, Filipinos suffer this type of discrimination, whether they are returning OFWs or not.w With the highest unemployment rate in ASEAN region, the Philippine job market is a buyer’s market; hiring companies can dictate the age of applicants.

“Returning OFWs experience age discrimination in their attempts to try to rejoin the mainstream workforce after being away for so long,” said the petition filed by the Blas Ople Policy Center.

It is ironic that the Philippine government is serious about fighting for the rights of its workers abroad — proper wages and benefits, humane working conditions — but fails to do the same back home. Filipinos abroad are less compelled to go back home even if they wanted to, just because of thin prospects of rejoining the mainstream workforce as they fail the entry age qualification. Or is it s a conspiracy to discourage OFWs from returning home so as workers abroad they continue to contribute to the dollar reserves the Philippines has become overly reliant on?

Due to the lack of initiative from the Philippines, through its lawmakers, non-government groups took the effort to file a petition online.

Why should age discrimination be banned in the Philippines?

  1. Age diversity in the workplace creates an environment brings a combination youthful exuberance  and veteran experience, which often translate to success and healthy working conditions. Fresh graduates carry excitement and enthusiasm at lower labor costs while mature workers such as former OFWs bring a wealth of knowledge, based on experience abroad. Having to confine your workforce to a certain age limit could make the company less flexible and less prepared for eventualities; if young workers leave the company en masse in favor of lucrative offers, the company’s operations could suffer heavily.
  2. The presence of seasoned workers in their 40s help mentor the entry-level professionals not only on developing skills, but more importantly the work ethics. With long experience in the industry, older workers have endured various experiences, what works and what doesn’t, and become source of wisdom. Young, tech-savvy workers can also teach the older ones the nuances of new technology in an effort to bring better productivity.

Besides what companies benefit out of age diversity, it’s also a sign of a healthy society, where workers — as long as they continue to contribute to the well-being of employers’ interests — are accorded with respect and allowed to prove their self-worth. Older, well-traveled OFWs apply for jobs back in the Philippines not just to continue to provide for their families. They offer more experience, proven work ethic and exude ideas learned from working in a multicultural environments abroad.