“Give me ten thousand Filipino soldiers and I will conquer the world”, Douglas MacArthur once said. Today, about ten million Filipinos are conquering the world.
The exodus of 4,500 Filipinos everyday to foreign countries is mostly driven by economic need according to an ABS-CBN report last October 2013. The same report also mentioned that there are almost ten million Pinoys abroad. For many Filipinos, keeping a job that will take him to his dream remains a dream. It’s like chasing the wind. From the many reports and news about the quest of Filipinos and people I know, here are some reasons why many Pinoys would rather leave their families behind and go abroad than stay in the Philippines and wait for uncertain employment opportunities.
Poverty is one of the main reasons why Filipinos work abroad. The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that extreme poverty among families remains steady at 1.6 million in 2012. This proportion of the population sadly is living on less than $1.25 a day. That is why, many Filipinos would choose to rather suffer the great risks of working abroad as a domestic helper or skilled worker as long as the basic needs of the family and education of the children is provided. Though this diaspora of Filipinos has brought relationship and domestic problems in the family, the need to provide seems to outweigh the value of closely looking out for them.
Low Salary and Benefits. The minimum wage of P456 is still way below the cost of living per day especially in the capital region. Despite the rising price of basic commodities, the wage increase is relatively slow. Many technical and other blue collar jobs in the Philippines are paid higher abroad – and even other professions in health care, IT, engineering and other pink collar jobs are offered a higher salary. Employment benefits as well are way better in other countries. Some offers benefits such as 52 paid weeks of maternity leave, free healthcare costs and company paid vacations alongside bonuses and other provisions.
Unfair Employment Policies. I think that there is no sound policy that protects the condition and welfare of some Filipino workers. One issue that seems to be forgotten or ignored by the government is the policy on non-regular workers. In 2010, there are about 850,085 non-regular workers out of 3.04 Million who are employed. This comprises about one third (27.94%) of the total employed workers and has significantly increased from the previous survey. One of the issues that often arise from local stories is that it is often difficult to get hired for a regular position because of the complex and often poorly implemented schemes of qualifying workers to become regular. The Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES) mentioned that: Manufacturing and real estate, renting and business services employed most of the non-regular workers. Oftentimes, even in the government, many qualified and well-experienced workers are often left out while some rookies get ahead of them due to their “personality edge” or because of their family ties to those in higher positions. Non-regular workers in the Philippines do not usually experience the supposed standard benefits given to all employees. It is said to be unfair because, many government institutions are giving the same work loads to non-regular employees, work 40 hours/week and even beyond but they aren’t given the benefits such as a 13th month pay and a year-end bonus.
This chart below shows the differences in benefits between these two employment statuses:
* The DOLE stated in 2011 that contractual workers may enjoy security of tenure and other benefits that regular workers are receiving. There is however no clear report if this is really implemented.
Social Unrest and Peace. The Philippines is ranked by Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) under the high risk category. According to EIU, economic distress due to rise of unemployment and low wages could lead to mass protests. Many Filipinos move out because of social unrest. Peace and safety oftentimes becomes a major reason of going abroad because of life threats. I knew some persons who are well thriving professionals or who have good businesses but have chosen to go abroad because of a life threatening environment. It further shows their distrust to the peacekeeping and law enforcement institution of the Philippines.
How then could anyone question the patriotism of a Filipino working abroad if the country that he loves, where he grew up, that nurtured and built him has forsaken him? How could the government convince the many skilled workers to stay if the government can’t assure the workers a better life for his family? Elected politicians and high ranking government officials are having a good life and enjoying a good reputation as a result of rising GDP where 10% of it is attributed to the remittances of OFWs. In spite of this, the government still lacks the mechanism to protect its workers abroad.
Whatever race or culture, every human being at least is entitled to have his own land and to seek for means to provide, protect and raise his family. Besides this right, every human being must pledge allegiance to the land that adopted and raised him. However, if the land no longer gives him the needed resource he deserves, he must decide with haste to look outside his borders or else he’ll die.
I knew a lot of people and heard from them their plight in working for the government and in some private sectors. It’s been a common story how a fully qualified and competent worker is not hired because of nepotism. It is no wonder why a speaker I heard in a Business Process Outsourcing orientation mentioned that it’s a mystery why Filipinos become more excellent workers abroad than when in the Philippines. Many competent workers are underpaid, discriminated and untapped. Many knowledge workers are like athletes on a bench whose potentials remain undiscovered because they aren’t given a chance. Many employees are also forced to work and are hired with small and delayed salaries but with work loads that are as heavy or even heavier as those whose salaries are twice higher than theirs. In the previous years, many Filipinos were recognized internationally because of their various talents, skills and even character; most of them however were not living in the Philippines during the time they were known.
I personally knew someone who has been working for the government for ten years on a contractual status in spite of his qualification having a masteral degree, good reputation and appropriate bachelor’s degree. What’s stopping him from what he deserves is the confusing and complex political matters and bureaucracy that is at play. I knew someone who was a nurse abroad for a few years but came back to the Philippines to work with high hopes of getting employed in her hometown due to her experience, but unfortunately, all opportunities are not in favor of her except for the other opportunities abroad. I once worked for two months with the Provincial Agriculture Department for their ladderized education program three years ago, and until now, I wasn’t paid yet although the Provincial director revealed a budget of 500 thousand. There is too much dishonesty and injustice in the government.
OFWs are now hailed as economic heroes. They are both helping their families in need as well as the nation’s economic welfare. They couldn’t be blamed for leaving the country and contributing their skills to the foreign workforce. If it’s the only way to sustain their family’s needs and to achieve their dreams, they have to move – Go abroad, work and live there. Just do not forget to pray for your beloved Philippines.