Philippine Government Has History of Greasing Wheels For Overseas Workers

Jul 1, 2013
Originally published on September 30, 2013 3:19 pm

Every issue has two sides and despite having a robust culture in the Philippines for over 40 years, the issue of OFW -- overseas Filipino workers -- is no exception.

One of the greatest points of contention between the opposing sides of the debate is the motives behind the Philippine government's "facilitation" of overseas deployment.

After all, the migration phenomenon was born out of policy in the 1970's during the President Ferdinand Marcos era - policy supposedly meant to quell dissent about domestic unemployment and political crisis, according to Migrante International. But whether or not the Philippines has Martial Law to thank for the underpinnings of the OFW culture here, policy since Marcos has only helped grease the wheels of the well-oiled worker deployment machine.

Here is a handy Philippine Overseas Employment Administration timeline of policy implementation that has ultimately lead to the Philippines deploying, on average, rates of 1.2 to 1.3 million workers a year. Note that with each administration, policy has been geared to streamline the deployment of OFW's and support their endeavors.

Nini Lanto, POEA Director of Pre-Employment Services, said accusations that the government is "in the business" of deploying workers aren't accurate.

"Actually the government merely documents because overseas employment was - and is still - a personal option of the workers," said Lanto. "We are just here to document and ensure that they go legally and that the job site whey are going to, they will be well protected."

She said labor migration is a world-wide phenomenon and the Philippine government goes to great lengths to present the pros, cons, benefits and sacrifices of becoming an OFW.

"It's a personal option, decision, a personal choice," said Lanto. "So it's the governments' job to make sure they are protected."

Although the government's intentions may never truly be known, there is one thing that's constant in the debate: the secure jobs are overseas. Not in the Philippines.

Dr. Marla Asis, Director of Research and Publication at the Scalabrini Migration Center and one of the primary authors of the newly released Country Migration Report (2013), said theĀ  government wants to send their skilled workers overseas because that's where the secure jobs are.

But the Philippine economy is growing. The country had the fastest growing GDP in the first quarter of 2013 - surpassing even China.

"But where are the jobs?" asked Asis. "Why are not creating, generating jobs - decent jobs for our people?"

Asis said a lot of it has to do with a declining manufacturing sector and an increase in a service jobs that don't pay decent enough wages.

"Call centers are creating a lot of jobs, but what are the prospects after working in the call centers?" said Asis. "The question of generating jobs remains a huge, huge challenge for the country."

Look for more of Ashley Westerman's dispatches from the Philippines here on and follow her on twitter @as_westerman with the hashtag #pinoyworkers.

**This story was funded by a reporting fellowship from the International Center for Journalists in Washington, DC.

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