Our 19-year-old niece, April, finished up her four month contract with SM Department Store in Iloilo City this past December 31st. She was classified as an “out right” employee for the biggest department store chain in the Philippines and did not work for an outside employment agency. If she had been hired as a five month contractual worker with an outside firm, she would have had the option to renew her contract immediately.
April at Raymen Beach in Guimaras
As it is, April has to wait three months before applying to Shoe Mart, SM, again. She made an extra 10 pesos a day as an “out right” employee versus an employee that works for an outside agency. I estimate that the extra ten pesos a day amounts to about P1,040, around 25.59 US Dollars (she worked six days a week at a salary of P277 a day.) Doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out the outside agency sales clerks who can renew their contracts automatically come out way ahead.
The fact that our niece cannot collect her last paycheck until 30 days after her last day of work also irks me. She was getting paid on the 5th and 20th of each month and I can’t figure out why SM holds the employee’s last check. But all in all, it was a good work experience for her and something she can add to her resume.
April is now enrolled in call center classes at the Philippine Call Center Institute (PCCI). Her twin sister, Michelle, took the free month long course, but unfortunately it did not help her land a job. I’ve strongly suggested to Michelle that she focus on another line of work. She has plans to apply at SM City. If she could get hired, it would at least give her some job experience and extra spending money. She keeps busy with all of the household chores such as cleaning the house and helping with the laundry. Since April’s classes only last half a day, she’ll be able to help her sister with the chores.
Jobs in the Philippines are extremely difficult to come by. There are reports that India may once again take the lead as the number once outsourcing nation in the world due to the stronger Philippine peso which is making it harder for call centers to operate here. Thestronger peso is also cutting into the buying power of the remittances Overseas Filipino Workers, OFWs, send to their loved ones in the Philippines. As this post is written, the current Philippine Peso to US Dollar exchange rate is 40.60 to 1.
In a span of three decades, the following graph illustrates the number of deployed OFWs in 1975 have increased dramatically from 36,035 in 1975 to over a million by 2006. Currently it is estimated there are over 10 million Filipinos classified as OFWs.
In 2011, the total number of OFWs continued to rise, growing by 15.4 percent during the year, with the land-based and sea-based workers showing a spread of 19.5 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively. Without these workers making the sacrifice to work abroad, away from their families, the Philippine economy would suffer a major blow.
Before we were married, my own asawa worked as an OFW for many years in Singapore and in Taiwan. It was not easy work by any stretch of the imagination. She worked for two years straight in Taiwan as a domestic helper/caretaker without one day off. A direct violation of her employment contract. If she complained, another Filipina would have been sent to take her place. She was the main source of support for her family back in Guimaras. Quitting, no matter how severe the working conditions were, was not an option.
My asawa and I are hopeful that our twin nieces that live with us will be able to find a job in the Philippines and will not have to go abroad to work. My sister-in-law Marjorie is currently employed in Kuwait as a domestic helper and her contract is due to end this coming April.
We care for Marjorie’s two children, Shaina and Sharwen, and do not know if she plans to come back to the Philippines or renew her contract with her employment agency. Already approaching her mid-forties, she is already considered too old for most jobs here. You won’t see seniors busing the tables at a local McDonald’s in the Philippines.
Life in the Philippines. It isn’t easy if you don’t have a job or a loved one supporting you that is working overseas. We’re hopeful April will be able to get a call center job once she finishes her training. She is confident that she can. I hope she’s right.