Working abroad is a dream for many Filipinos. Thousands of us leave the Philippines every day for jobs across the four corners of the world. While it might not be challenging to decide to work overseas, it’s still a big dilemma for many who have options available back home.
For example, if you are working in a relatively secure job in the Philippines, or line or promotion and pay raise, staying home within your comfort zone might be an option to do. But when you see families of friends receiving balikbayan boxes regularly or move to new homes financed by overseas remittance, the lure to go abroad looks too good to pass up.
Overseas Filipino workers seem to have a better life than they had before going abroad, so others wish to try their luck. Unfortunately, the route to success and better experience requires risks and sacrifices, some of which fail to yield any fruit and push migrant workers even to the brink of desperation.
So before deciding to take the risk and hunt for jobs abroad, weigh your options with these pros and cons:
The first distinct advantage of being an OFW is money. OFWs typically earn at least twice what’s considered a decent wage in the Philippines for the same amount of work. Overseas employers might be more generous in granting bonuses, career advancements, and have laws that provide cash windfalls like gratuity pay and end of service benefits. But let’s not dwell on this advantage for too long since it can be quite deceiving. Read on further and find out if the lure for more money trumps any other perceived disadvantages of working abroad.
Learn new culture
They travel to you many things. As you go abroad, traveling and learning at the same time is always part of your OFW journey. You get to try boarding longer than domestic flights, or even fly for the first time. It also exposes you to new things such as fresh food. You can then tell your family what a kebab or yum cha is, depending on where you are and perhaps share recipes. Being an OFW also provides opportunities for exploration to see new places.
More options for family
Being an OFW is not just an advantage to yourself. More importantly, it potentially brings relief from poverty. From your monthly money remittance, you can now send your kids to school without worrying about tuition fee payments as much as before. You can also move your family to a more decent home or even get a new car or establish that long-planned business now with fresh capital from your overseas earnings.
Government benefits and privileges
You can also enjoy other things such as privileges the government grants to Filipino workers abroad, such as priority lanes, fee exemptions, and soft loans for small businesses. So you are not only depending solely on your salary. You also can earn more, depending on how you handle your finances. As OFW, you’ll also be given priority on programs like owning a new house or OWWA loans.
More secure future
With more money you’ll earn from abroad, you can better secure your family’s future. If paying for life, health or hospital insurance, educational fund, or extra contribution on your retirement fund (SSS or GSIS) is something that’s beyond your reach while working in the Philippines, you can better allocate for this type of future investment. With the foresight to the future, you place importance on these things beyond what you and your family will benefit from now.
More business opportunities
When you work abroad, you are also aware of your finite time away from your family. Eventually, you’ll plan your strategy on how long will you be working abroad, how much you’ll potentially earn, and what investment to pour capital on once you return to the Philippines. But these plans are now more concrete, especially that you’ll have both the financial machinery from your earnings and business acuity you’ll learn with both international work exposure and training from agencies such as TESDA, to make things happen. Whether it’s a sari-sari store or water dispenser business or managing your leisure resort, this is now closer to reality.
In a perfect world, there are no disadvantages whatsoever. But since we are not in an ideal world, the life of OFWs also has its share of difficulties. Despite all the financial gains, privileges and a more secure future, obstacles are lurking around:
When you look for jobs in the domestic market, you’ll not expect to spend a fortune to land employment. But when you decide to work abroad, it’s this literal sense of gambling that takes shape. You’re expected to pool your savings, pawn your farmland or borrow from family members to finance your application abroad. Costs such as placement fees, airfares (if not borne by employer), medical check-ups, and many other overheads can be overwhelming.
Those who don’t have financial resources may end up dealing with loan sharks that spin their life in a vicious cycle; a significant share of the money they earn is devoted to paying off loans that often have oppressive rates.
Worse, those who end up in abusive bosses, located in places of conflict or employed in businesses that suddenly went bankrupt, can cut short an OFW stint, making it virtually impossible to repay the loans they owe.
Detachment from family
If you go abroad alone (some OFWs bring their families with them), the psychological stigma of being away from family can be unbearable. The homesickness, coupled with adjustment to new work and a new overall environment, is one of the first emotional barriers to overcome for newcomers.
Some OFWs can’t seem to adjust immediately and decided to give up their OFW dreams and return to their family, even if it means they’ll live a life worse than before they went abroad.
You don’t see your child grow up, rear them to become competent, upright members of society. When things go wrong — they get hooked to drugs or fail to finish studies — children sometimes blame parents for ‘abandoning’ them during their formative years.
Being detached from family or relationships also attracts temptations. It is a fact that many OFWs abroad are involved in extramarital affairs, some with fellow married Filipinos working abroad. Such a gap between the breadwinner can be too costly that it breaks families apart.
In many cases, children become alienated from their parents and prefer to stay close with guardians even if they are not their blood relatives. For a mother longing for her child’s affection only to be turned away when she makes a brief vacation back home, how painful can that feels?
Lack of opportunities when you return home
If you have spent a considerable amount of time abroad, you might not consider returning to the workforce in the Philippines with your savings. But in many cases, work career abroad is cut short such as those whose jobs are affected by the economic downturn, abusive employers, or caught in the crossfire in a conflict area.
While the government offers opportunities for livelihood and jobs, it’s often not sufficient. Being used to higher-paying jobs abroad, you may not welcome a lower-wage offer in the Philippines. Worse, even if you want a job that requires your level of skills and experience, your age works against your favor as employers explore more options in the younger labor force.
There are worse experiences OFWs endure abroad, some of whom end their lives out of hopelessness and desperation. Certainly, it’s not what they had in mind when they first set foot elsewhere.
Subject to exploitation
Some OFWs experience being manipulated by illegal recruiters and unscrupulous loan sharks, and finish their OFW dreams before they even commence.
Others may have gone past the immigration counter but end up being rerouted to places other than their intended destination as victims of human trafficking. They then could be locked up, abused for sexual gains by captors, or sold in the white slavery business.
Still, others become victims of drug syndicates as drug mules, changing their destination from workplace to police detention. Several Filipinos working as OFWs have since been hanged for drug crimes, some of whom were presumed innocent and were victims of manipulation.
Now that you see the two sides of the OFW coin, will you decide to go abroad or choose to stay home?