Thursday, March 28, 2024

Why Many Filipinos Want to Work Abroad

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There are several reasons why Filipinos work abroad. Whether it is their first choice or they have been compelled to do so, there are numerous underlying reasons for the OFW phenomenon.

Leaving the country means being separated from family members and relying on long-distance calls, SMS, or instant messaging discussions as key modes of communication. It also means foregoing the opportunity to guide and observe children’s development.

Missing favorite TV episodes, attending family gatherings on weekends, and many other things are given up in exchange for living overseas. Let’s look at the various reasons why a family man, a loving mother, or an only child must leave home to find job overseas.

The unstable economic situation in the Philippines

There has long been a lack of trust in the government’s efforts to provide a better future for its residents, which may have prompted many Filipinos to seek jobs abroad. Corruption, gross inefficiency in government duties, a relatively high tax rate, and a lack of good economic strategy have dashed the aspirations of an aspiring Filipino, who now believes the grass is greener wherever else than home.


The high unemployment rate in the Philippines

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The persistently high unemployment rate has been a chronic problem in a country that generates almost a million college graduates in courses that are deemed popular but whose demand is declining. Fresh graduates enter the workforce, raising competition for available positions. Worse for senior job seekers, many employers choose new graduates over brilliant candidates, most likely because the income and benefits are insufficient for an experienced worker.

Low salary offered by local companies

The one significant reason why Filipinos are willing to work abroad is the relatively low pay that Philippine businesses offer. Even jobs that are in high demand in certain parts of the world, such as nurses, engineers, and teachers, are low-paid. Not to mention the age discrimination and prejudice based on where you graduated from. It’s no surprise that many people prefer to work abroad as domestic assistants or office clerks rather than in the Philippines because they can usually earn higher wages elsewhere.

Related: Age Limit Discrimination in the Philippine Job Market

Contractual employment arrangement

The country’s high unemployment rate provides an edge to businesses who hire personnel on a contract basis. The practice is common across the country, ranging from mall sales ladies to fast restaurant employees.

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This creates a tremendous degree of employment uncertainty for those who work under such conditions. Filipinos are naturally content with a modest pay as long as there is job security. However, such a work arrangement is difficult to obtain in many industries, as the supply of workers consistently outstrips the need for their services.

Poor benefits for workers in the Philippines

Local firms favor contractual employees since they are easy to fire and do not require health benefits or accident insurance coverage, which is a labor loophole in the country.

While the government’s social services (SSS, Pag-IBIG, and PhilHealth) are typically provided as employment perks, the monthly contribution can drastically diminish a low-wage worker’s take-home earnings. A high unemployment rate ensures an endless supply of candidates, regardless of how pathetic the job offer is. Such an unfair position nearly always makes employers satisfied.

OFWs are now more pampered

Believe it or not, OFWs are now afforded improved protection and benefits (hotel deals solely valid for OFWs, dedicated lanes for overseas workers at the airport, and discounted health insurance premiums, to name a few), as well as being hailed as the nation’s new breed of heroes.

Heroes are filling the country’s coffers with billions of dollars in remittances. Even ABS-CBN’s TFC provides front-row seats for balikbayans to attend entertainment performances.

It’s not so lonely to go abroad anymore

Previously, moving overseas was like sending oneself into exile in a foreign nation. Without companions, you’ll have to deal with strange language, weather, and food.

But times have changed, and many foreign Filipino communities have sprouted up all over the world, including Tokyo, Barcelona, Sydney, Dubai, Singapore, and New York. Cultural events and tours featuring Filipino entertainers have brought abroad Filipino workers closer to home. Not to mention lower long-distance fees and the availability of the internet for communicating with loved ones.

Discrimination in job hiring in the Philippines

This is a sad reality that local job candidates must cope with. Again, this is due to a glut of available labor eager to work for lower pay with no benefits or paid time off.

Employers typically select the “best” candidates; however, they are not always the most qualified for the positions. They are often between the ages of 21 and 30, graduates of prestigious schools such as the University of the Philippines or the Ateneo de Manila, and at least five feet tall for women, even if the job does not demand it.

It’s a preference for age and a pleasant personality over competence and competitiveness. The process leaves competent but overage applicants in the shadows, and they decide to travel abroad.

High withholding tax.

The Philippines has a high income tax rate for employees. Although lower salary brackets are now exempt from BIR withholding taxes, SSS premium, Pag-IBIG fund and other monthly obligations to the government still create a significant dent in an ordinary worker’s take-home pay.

Salary abroad is often paid once every month.

Getting paid once a month helps workers forecast expenses, and set aside for savings and other long-term plans. We guess it still depends on every worker who wishes to save regardless if salaries are paid every day or once a month.


There are numerous clear reasons why Filipinos want to travel abroad — we see many males apply for jobs that do not require much knowledge (see comments for a list of willing applicants) in order to earn more or secure a better future.

But what long-term benefits does the OFW phenomenon bring to our country and the next generation of Filipinos? The road ahead may be hazy, and we have no idea what awaits us, but for the time being, while we are still physically capable, we are doing everything we can to ensure the future. Traveling abroad is the only way to accomplish this.

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