On Working Overseas…

Filipino Workers Abroad

Jobs are a scarcity. This is a fact in almost all nations. Even the most progressive nations suffer from high unemployment rate. In the Philippines, it is an undisputed fact that the government cannot generate enough jobs to accommodate all workers willing to be employed. That’s why it is no surprise that out of the 98 million Filipinos, an estimated 12 million (as of 2013) are working abroad. That’s a huge chunk of the population.

Actually, this whole overseas working scheme is an anomaly in the first place. Since the beginning, work has always been scarce and so Filipinos were flocking out of the country to find jobs elsewhere. The government, instead of finding concrete means to generate jobs in the country, tolerated this scheme of deploying workers abroad. In exchange of such tolerance, the overseas worker will have to remit a portion of his salary back to the Philippines. And so began, as it was even made into law, this system where working abroad is more of a solution rather than the symptom of a disturbing economic problem.

But who’s complaining? Not the government, of course. This system can even be justified by the fact that yearly remittances from OFWs amount to an average of US$21 billion. And that’s just the amount legally coursed through the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA). This number can easily be multiplied a score-fold or more if direct fund transfers, from the OFW to her/his family, are counted. Indisputably, working overseas is a huge economic stimulant. In fact, as some pundits may insist, the OFW remittances played a huge role in mitigating the effect of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis upon the Philippines.

So what am I ranting about?


In my opinion, it is really understandable if, pardon me for my term, lesser skilled and semi skilled workers leave the country for greener pastures. But for highly skilled workers like professionals i.e., nurses, doctors, engineers, and architects, them leaving the country to work abroad is a mortal sin. I personally consider it unpatriotic and selfish on their part. Why? Because there’s a significant distinction between the latter type of workers and the others. These are people who are supposed to be the pillars of nation building.

For them to complain about the amount of money they are receiving as salary here in the Philippines is hypocritical. They still earn more than the average Filipino. They are professionals for Rizal’s sake!

I almost feel like the root cause as to why these professionals want to leave is that they want to get rich fast. What really ticks me off too is that a lot of these professionals really do not need to go abroad in order to get a decent lifestyle. I have well-off friends from high school who took up nursing because when we graduated high school, nursing was the boom thing, and during career orientation day, we were being informed that nurses are highly needed abroad. See? Even then we are already being groomed to work abroad and not here. Anyway, the question that was bothering me was, these kids are already well off, why the hell would they wish to earn dollar abroad when they can afford to take the lesser pay here and at the same time serve their fellowmen? But really it was simple, it’s all about the money. Also, Nursing is one of the most expensive courses here in the Philippines. The mere fact that they can afford it belies the argument that they need to work abroad.

You see, there’s a difference between needing to work abroad and working abroad on a mere whim – just so others can say, “Oooh, he’s working abroad, he must be earning big!” While others, domestic helpers in particular, those who did not even finish high school, find working abroad as a way out of poverty, there are some who find working abroad as a status symbol – and that’s what needs to be eliminated because really, that is stupid and if given a more scrutinizing look, it is counterproductive. Like I said, it is more understandable for less and semi skilled workers to work abroad because really, even if they work their ass off here, they will not be able to alleviate their living conditions, as opposed to professionals who have more opportunities to live a decent lifestyle by simply working here as professionals without the need of working abroad.

Hell, even doctors who have already established a career here take up nursing courses so that they can work as nurses abroad. These people are already earning well here yet they want to abandon the motherland to earn dollars abroad. I would rather see them leave permanently and for them to disavow their citizenship. Because when they come back here, they will just be flaunting the money they earned abroad. Besides, if they are not satisfied with their social status as professionals here, which is already way better than what most Filipinos have to go through on a daily basis, you would not expect these same people to identify with their fellow Filipinos or even help them out. If they refuse to serve their fellowmen at a lesser pay, don’t even expect them to share their wealth. So really, they’re as good as gone forever.

This system of working overseas for a larger pay off, as it is now, removes the distinction as to who really needs to go abroad and those who does not. I believe there should be a strict law. Sure we have this generic principle that it’s ideal for professionals to have worked here for 5 years (at least) before working abroad, but what is that but a mere rhetoric. We need rules in place now otherwise, we may turn into something like a mere training ground for professionals.

And by strict law I mean there should  be a well placed strategic policy in deploying workers abroad. Just take a look at the nursing boom, this was a problem of our own making. Why are there so many unemployed nurses? Because no one was prudent enough to foresee a surplusage back then. But this lack of foresight cannot be blamed on the government alone. The blame should be shared by parents and nurses alike. If you’re 16 or 17 years old, you should be old enough to decide on your own which course to take and what path to take, after all, it’s your life. For parents, especially those who pressured their children to take certain courses simply because they were the current boom, shame on you for not being prudent. Now we don’t know where to place all these nurses. Call centers maybe? But then they are only displacing people who trained for that. Besides, a lot of call centers shun from hiring nurses as call center agents because of the fact that these nurses can leave at any time once they were able to process their papers abroad.

Now I’m sorry for picking on nurses as an example here but they’re the best representation of this current problem that we have. I feel for them too because a lot of them are placed in a situation where there is no turning back. They’ve spent so much in college and naturally they would want to have a “return of investment”. Plus, since there’s a surplusage, employers abroad can make additional demands like only applicants with experience may be hired. So how can a fresh nursing graduate be hired in that situation. Now we have hospitals who charge fresh nursing graduates to work for them. Here, instead of the hospital paying for the nurse, it’s the nurse who pays the hospital in exchange of some certification – after that, the nurse becomes more marketable abroad – you see how absurd the system is? But hey, I am yet to see a group of nurses complain about this system so I guess they’re okay with that. Or I guess they’re all calloused by the hope that someday they can work abroad.

I’m writing this with a heavy heart. Really, the entire system is so sickening it makes me mad. But I still believe the key here is for these professionals, especially those who really belong to well off families, to make their own sacrifices. If you can still afford to live here as professionals stay here. We need you here more than what you can send as remittances while you are working abroad. Because the amount of contribution that you’ll be sharing here is not just measured in terms of the professional taxes you will be paying. If you work here, you will be touching lives, you will be influencing others, you will be imparting your knowledge to your fellowmen, you will be part of nation building. Let’s not also make our government’s incompetence as an excuse. We are professionals after all, we have a collective voice. We can pressure the government or even we ourselves can infiltrate the government and initiate change for the benefit of the people. But if you will be leaving, what voice will we have?













Image Courtesy of: http://www.pinoy-ofw.com/news/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/ofw-lane.jpg

About the author

Howard Chan (The Student)

Howard considers himself as an armchair activist. Though his street rally days are in a slumber he still advocates changes via social media. He is a strong believer that awareness of various social issues is a good starting point in order to break out from the stranglehold of an oppressive system which only benefits the few. He is also a full time student and a part time blogger, part time web designer, part time web manager/designer for various clients. (Note: Howard Chan passed the 2014 Bar Exams and was admitted to the Philippine Bar on April 29, 2015. That being, all posts after April 29, 2015 authored by him are now under the name Howard Chan for the purpose of distinguishing posts he made as a non-lawyer from posts he made after admission to the bar).

2 pings

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