By: Kathleen Yu
Manpower resources are one of the Philippines’ greatest exports. Presently, over eleven percent of the population are employed as Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and Filipino communities are found in almost every industrialized nation in the world. The OFW diaspora regularly injects dollars into the economy in the form of remittances from Filipino professionals working abroad sending money home to their families. This has assisted the Philippine government immensely, and kept the local economy afloat.
There are over 8 million registered Filipinos working abroad with the United States alone employing over 3 million Filipino migrants. Despite the global recession, Filipino professionals working in the US remitted over $17.3 billion in the last year alone, an estimated 5.6% increase from the 2008 figures. Saudi Arabia employs over 900,000 OFWs and the numbers are growing.
Overseas Filipino Workers are appropriately termed “modern day heroes” because of the sacrifices they make in leaving their families to work abroad. Most of them are blue collar workers, employed in jobs like caregiving, nursing and housekeeping.
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) is a government agency that monitors and assists OFWs working abroad. OFWs are required to register with the POEA, while in the process of applying for working visas and other permits to go abroad. The POEA is also tasked with registering and monitoring recruitment agencies in the Philippines to ensure that no OFWs are led into forced labor, and other forms of abuse.
According to corporate lawyer Amanda Carpo, legal counsel of Makati-based firm Kittelson and Carpo Consulting, “The number of overseas recruitment agencies setting up operations in the Philippines is growing at an exorbitant rate. This is primarily because OFWs are considered a global commodity. Higher salaries and superior living conditions have lured a large number of OFWs abroad, and more and more Filipinos are following in their footsteps. This bodes well for the Philippine economy, which can only stand to gain from an increase in OFW remittances.”
On the other hand, as the Philippines undergoes a change in government and the job market abroad gets continually more competitive the question arises as to whether or not Filipinos will continue to venture abroad, in search of greener pastures. With such a competitive overseas job market, OFWs may be returning home to the Philippines making for highly-skilled overseas trained employees. The Philippine government should be prepared to respond to these scenarios and to support the OFWs who have been and continue to be a positive force in the economy.