Jobs in the Philippines: April and Michelle Update

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

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.

OFW stats(Source:  National Statistical Coordination Board)

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.

Melinda in Taiwan

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. 

14 Comments

  1. Hey Dave,

    That’s too bad that April lost her job and cant get her contract renewed quicker than that, since she is already trained, I would think that they would rather keep her, than to get a new person that might not have any training yet. Sounds as though mall management their has about as much common sense as our congress here has, or lack there-of. Hope they can both find something they would like to do their, and not have to go to another country, and split your family up more than it already is, that’s sucks I know, to have to leave your children and go to another country just in order to obtain a decent job, but, you do what you gotta do as a parent I know, to support your kids. Guess an old fart like me wont be getting a job their, but if I ever move their, I will be retired anyway, but will have to find something to do, to occupy my time, cause unlike you, I dont write anything people would want to read. Wish them both, lots of luck though finding jobs!!

    Reply
    • Thanks for the comment, Bill. Yeah, it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me to have to re-train a new person all over again, but in order to avoid paying benefits to full-time, regular employees, that’s what’s done. The vast majority of any workers that I’ve spoken to at the various department stores in the Philippines are on the five month contract. I know of several people that have quit so they can work overseas. Yes, they’ll be away from their families, but they can make a lot more money abroad. It’s tough but that’s the way it is.

      Bill, some of my retired friends drink beer or have some other hobby to pass the time. For some, drinking beer is their hobby. I can guarantee you that you will go crazy with boredom, even in “paradise,” if you don’t find something to occupy your time with.

      Reply
  2. Dave,

    I wish both of your nieces the best on their job search. I have been to Cebu and Manila and noticed how difficult it is for young people to get a job, many requirements for a minimum wage jobs. Old people need not apply, the job ads do specify the age limit and it is usually 35 or 40 yrs. old. I am planing to retire to the Philippines in the next 5 years or so, I don’t have hobbies and drinking beer is a hobby that grows old quickly so I hope that, may be, in the next 5 years I’ll find a hobby.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Marty. You’re right about those job ads. There is widespread age discrimination for anyone looking for a job in the Philippines. And seeking an alternative hobby to drinking beer is wise on your part. Fighting boredom is a real issue for a lot of retired expats. Thanks for your input.

      Reply
  3. Dave, thanks for the update. April and Michelle are the same age as my sister in law whom lives in Zamboanga, her name is Jeny. Jeny is working but she does not make minimum wage, is that common? Of course I am trying to play “match maker” and I have two friends communicating with her now.

    We will be visiting the Philippines in 2 weeks, I was hoping to catch up to you for a San Migel, but my tour guide (asawa) has us so busy in Zamboanga and Cagayan De Oro, I am not going to make it to your neck of the woods. I enjoy your stories, thank you..

    Reply
    • It is very common for workers not being paid the legal minimum wage, Lee. If they complain, the employer will just find someone else for the job. Ethical? Nope. That’s the way it is.

      Have a great trip. Sorry you won’t be able to make it over to Iloilo City for a visit but I appreciate your support. You’re coming before the next big wave of dry weather and heat starts up, so you should have decent weather. Take care.

      Reply
  4. if the job search doesn’t work out she can do what many young filipinas do and search for a foreigner old enough to be her father for financial security

    Reply
    • That’s true, Bob. Happens all the time. Have to separate the wheat from the chaff. Lots of loyal, loving sincere Filipinas out there but unfortunately, lots that are trying to escape their cycle of poverty also, and will do just about anything to achieve that goal. Check out my post, if you haven’t already, “How to Find a Filipina Girlfriend 50 Years Your Junior.”

      Reply
  5. What about teaching english to koreans? That could be an alternative for both girls and could even be a stepping stone to a call center career. Good luck to the both of them. I hope their experience will whip them into the realization that the only way you can truly pull yourself up is by finishing and getting a degree. That way, they will have more options, careerwise. If they don’t realize that yet, then I hope their tita will hammer that into them.

    Reply
    • Yes, kaltehitze, the twins are exploring that option. I remember you telling me about that quite some time ago. April is going to finish her PCCI class first and try for a call center job. I’m in contact with an American friend who teaches English to Koreans online. Michelle is going to apply at SM Department Store. Completing their education is very important and both the girls want to do that. Thanks for the advice and take care.

      Reply
  6. Dave,
    It’s unfortunate that the twins have a hard time getting a jobs. They really are good girls. Also a degree is not even a guarantee to getting a job even at SM. I plan on staying busy helping Anne with her business, traveling and doing volunteer work. Hopefully that will occupy alot of my time. I will know next week exactly when i will be retiring. Can’t wait to visit Iloilo again. Take care and stay safe

    Reply
    • Thanks, PapaDuck, the twins are certainly hard workers. Never have any problems with them. They always listen to their “Dad” and their tita. You’re wise to have something to keep yourself busy. Looking forward to your next visit, PapaDuck. Keep us posted and take care.

      Reply
  7. Dave,

    I wish the best of luck to both of your nieces !

    Fearless Frank from Florida

    Reply
    • Thanks, Fearless Frank from Florida. There is another big job fair that my niece, Michelle, will be attending next week. April is just beginning her new classes and I’m hopeful that she’ll have better luck than her sister Michelle in finding a call center job. Difficult to find employment in the Philippines, no doubt about that.

      Reply

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