A recent email from Lance the Canadian which contained links to various article regarding Filipino workers in Canada, prompted me to wonder: Are Overseas Filipino Workers creating a welfare state in the Philippines? Over 10 million Filipinos, 10 percent of the total population of the Philippines, work abroad and send home more than $23 billion a year in remittances.
Marjorie, far left, and the crew from “The Compound
“It’s keeping the whole country afloat, even with all its corruption,” says Prod Laquian, a UBC professor emeritus who was raised in the Philippines and has written about Asian immigration. Professor Laquian arrived in Vancouver in the 1960s when there were fewer than 1,000 Filipinos in Canada, now there are 625,000.
“The country may be likened to a man who has become lazy because he receives remittances from a wife working as a domestic worker abroad,” Laquian says. “For the government, the easy money from foreign remittances is a major cause of its inability to pursue sound economic development programs.” (Source: The Vancouver Sun.)
For almost four decades, the Philippines has witnessed the migration of hundreds of thousands of women and men overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to take up work in other countries and on board international ocean-going vessels. While the economic benefits from overseas employment are evident, there are related social costs such as the abuse, maltreatment, and discrimination of Filipino migrant workers, seafarers and fishers. The social impacts of the prolonged separation of family members as well as the social costs on the community and society should also be taken into account.
Republic Act 10022, an act amending Republic Act 8042, affirms that: “…the State does not promote overseas employment as a means to sustain economic growth and achieve national development.” However, overseas employment continues, with more than a million workers deployed annually. (Source: Philippines Migrants Rights Watch.)
Should the Philippine government keep encouraging people to be supported forever, which discourages effort (study or work), and self-motivation? I think not.
My wife, herself a former OFW in Singapore and Taiwan for years, and the rest of my extended family in the Philippines, are quite familiar with the negative impact of having a loved one, such as a spouse or parent, working overseas for extended periods of time.
- My wife’s oldest sister has a husband who has worked as a captain on a fishing boat for decades. The husband is sometimes gone for two years at a time. Their oldest daughter starting having children out of wedlock at the age of 17. The oldest had excellent grades in high school and was expected to go to college. Now between her and her younger sister, they have four children. The oldest likes to party until 4 am in the morning as she gets drunk on Red Horse and Tanduay Rhum.
- My sister-in-law Marjorie, once employed as a dental technician in Manila, has worked in Saudi Arabia, where she was forced to flee after the head of the household, the wife, falsely accused Marjorie of attacking her with scissors. Now in Kuwait for over four years, Marjorie, on the right in the next picture, has not not seen her teen-aged daughter and son for years. Her children live with us and if not for the discipline and close watch my wife and I have over the kids, they, too, could go down the wrong path. But I can’t imagine the loneliness and depression the two must feel at times having been separated from their mother for so long.
- My brother-in-law Moises, seen in the next picture, has worked on a fishing boat for years and is also separated from his wife and children for years at a time. I am of the belief that it’s beneficial to have both mother and father present in the family when the children are growing up. I realize that millions of single mothers across the world are coping with raising children by themselves, but I still hold to old school beliefs, if you will, that both parents should be involved in their kid’s upbringing full time.
When my wife and I retired to the Philippines over five years ago my spouse was amazed by the amount of private vehicles on our little island of province in the nine year span that she was gone from her native home as she was with me nine years in America. And of course the reason for the increase of vehicles were in direct correlation to the increased number of Overseas Filipino Workers that hail from our mango province.
Go to any McDonald’s in nearby Iloilo City and look at all the overweight kids that are clutching I-Pads or texting their friends (probably at the next table) with the latest expensive smart phone. Where do you think those kids are getting that money from to have such expensive toys? Chances are, they have a mother or father, brother or sister, working overseas.
So are Overseas Filipino Workers creating a welfare state in the Philippines? No, it’s not the workers that are at fault, they are merely trying to provide for their families. The bulk of the blame must go to the Philippine government which seemingly only gives lip service to creating more job opportunities for Filipinos while they praise the “booming” economy of this archipelago.
The Philippines has been one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies, but the expansion hasn’t been accompanied by corresponding improvements in terms of job creation and poverty reduction according to a recent United Nations study. The UN report said governments should expedite education reform and grow their economies fast to generate the kind of jobs that would improve living standards. Amen, to that brother. (Source: InterAksyon)