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EXODUS OF FILIPINOS:

MIGRATION TREND OF FILIPINO OVERSEAS WORKERS IN THE WORLD

Paolo S. Infante
BA Political Science
PS199 TFD

ABSTRACT
Filipino migrants can be found all over the world. Historically, there have been massive
foreign labor migrations of Filipinos in search for employment and better opportunities. Overseas
employment is now a global phenomenon. While there are economic gains from this
phenomenon, to the Filipino workers, their families, and the Philippine society in general have to
bear the issue on massive migration and workers protection.
Based on the major findings of the labor migration study, there were two important major
issues raised. First is the continued massive outflow of OFWs. Second, the serious concern over
the discrimination, exploitation and danger of OFWs. The other side of this issue, however,
revealed and identified advantages of labor migration such as employment and remittances of the
overseas workers that have supported the countrys economy.
The findings of this research will reveal comparison of the reasons and issues and
concerns on Filipino migration now and at that time labor migration formally started in the
1970s. The aim is to be able to give understanding of the acceleration of the exodus of Filipinos
workers for overseas jobs around the world.
Keywords: Filipino Migrants, Labor Migration, Global Phenomenon, Massive Outflow, Exodus

Background of Filipino Migration


Studies showed early labor migration in the Philippines began in the 1900s when Hawaii
experienced severe manpower shortage. Two hundred Filipinos were initially recruited to work
in Hawaiis plantation. Then, Filipinos became in demand in California as apple and orange
pickers. After World War II, another wave of Filipino workers were sent to Guam as constructors
and laborers in the US military stations.
The increasing volume of Filipino workers now known as Overseas Filipino Workers
(OFWs) started when the Middle East job market opened in the 1970. Filipinos began to leave the

Philippines as a response to the growing demand for workers particularly in the Middle East
countries. Multinational companies recruited Filipino engineers and skilled construction workers
to fill in the labor shortages with projects in the oil-rich countries. Also, the Filipino women were
recruited as nurses, domestic helpers and nannies in the Middle East and then to the Asia and the
Pacific region like Hongkong, Singapore, Taiwan, and Malaysia.
As what the studies showed on migration, Filipinos have migrated to other countries in
search for employment opportunities because unemployment and poverty were being experienced
in the country. However, the exodus of Filipino workers across geographical boundaries for
greener pasture prompted the government to regulate the crossing of their borders and made
immigration policy an important instrument for attaining economic and other social goals. The
government institutionalizes the overseas employment program with the promulgation of
Presidential Decree No. 442, otherwise known as the Labor Code of the Philippines.

The

Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) was established by Executive Order


No. 797 in July 1987 to manage the overseas employment program. In 1995, Republic Act 8042,
now amended to 10022 defined the specific role of the POEA in managing labor migration. At
the present time, POEA, has paved the way for the deployment of millions of Filipinos all over
the world (Laws on Overseas Employment, 2012).
Filipinos continue to travel all over the world offering services to foreign employers.
Today, we are witnesses to the flows of migrants in the world. As history would say, migration of
Filipinos abroad is a product of poverty and unemployment rooted under the Spanish colonial rule
when distribution of land and wealth has benefited a handful of rich landlords, allies, and
multinational companies. This system continues to this very day.

Profile of Overseas Filipinos Workers


Today, overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are in about 200 countries and territories
employed by various foreign principals. They are employed in various type of land-based and

sea-based jobs. The Philippines remains as one of the top supplier of manpower in the land based
work and in the sea based manning capital of the world said Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac of
the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, POEA (2015).
POEA statistics showed that from 2005 to 2014, the number of deployment rose more
than 100%. This means that Filipino continue to seek employment opportunities abroad. They
are employed in various fields such professional, medical, technical, operations and maintenance,
construction, hotel, entertainers, performing artists, household service workers, and seafaring
sectors. The Middle East remains to be the major market for skilled workers and professionals of
overseas workers followed by United Arab Emirates, Hongkong, Japan, and Taiwan, then Europe
and Americas.
Also, the Commission on Filipino Overseas posted in 2013 the stock estimate of 10.2
overseas Filipinos based on the global mapping of overseas Filipinos in the world. It further
showed USA as the highest number of overseas Filipinos followed by Saudi Arabia, United Arab
Emirates, Canada, Malaysia, Australia, Japan, United Kingdom, Kuwait and Qatar.
The studies on migration also reflected that exodus of Filipino workers for overseas jobs
are no longer a male dominated phenomenon. Filipina workers have invaded in the overseas
employment particularly in the household related work. In the books of Honcula, 2003 and
Tacoli, 1999, both reaffirmed that women are more preferred by some countries rather than males
in household jobs.
Other related studies cited findings in terms of profile, female overseas Filipino workers
are younger than their male counterparts. Majority of female OFWs fall within the 20-34 age
bracket.
POEA figures, in the past ten years also indicate a very clear trend of an increase in the
deployment of female OFWs with dominance of service occupations such as domestic or
household work and caregiving.

When it comes to the services and professional, women

outnumbered men.

Statistics of Deployed Overseas Filipino Workers


Number of Deployed Landbased OFWs
Figure 1 shows the number of deployed landbased OFWs per year. An increase of 22.15% from
2010 to 2011, 9.78% from 2011 to 2012, 1.38% from 2012 to 2013, and a 4.79% increase from
2013 to 2014.
Number of Seabased OFWs
Figure 2 shows the number of deployed seafarer OFWs per year. We can see an increase of
6.32% from 2010 to 2011, a decrease of 0.61% from 2011 to 2012, an increase of 0.08% from
2012 to 2013 and an increase of 9.44% from 2013 to 2014.
Figure 1

NUMBER OF DEPLOYED LANDBASED


OFWs
600,000
500,000
400,000
300,000
200,000
100,000
0
2010

2011

2012
NUMBER OF OFWs

2013

2014

Figure 2

NUMBER OF SEABASED OFWs


410,000
400,000
390,000
380,000
370,000
360,000
350,000
340,000
330,000
320,000
310,000
2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

NUMBER OF OFWs

Source: POEA Statistics


Top ten countries of destinations of overseas Filipino workers
Figure 3 in the next page shows the top ten countries of destination of Filipino workers. The
Middle East remains to be the major market of land based workers as countries of employment
specifically in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. Asia is still the second
largest market of the OFWs, especially for domestic helpers in Hong Kong.

Figure 3

500,000 402,837
400,000
300,000

246,231
140,205
114,511
105,737
70,098 58,681
31,451 18,958 18,107

200,000
100,000
0

Number of deployed land based workers

Source: POEA Statistics

Figure 4 as shown below, indicates the top ten flags registry for sea-based workers wherein
Panama and Bahamas are top destinations.
Figure 4

80,000
70,000
60,000
50,000
40,000
30,000
20,000
10,000
0

71,356
50,379
35,974 32,179
23,793 22,561
16,509 13,232 12,582 12,297

Number of deployed seafarers

Source: POEA Statistics

Top Ten Occupational Categories


Table 1 presents the top ten deployments of Filipino workers by occupational categories
were household service workers occupies the number one slot. The biggest household workers
are the domestic helpers.
This is followed by professional nurses due to the employment opportunities for nurses to
the ageing population of Europe and Americas. The waiters and bartenders, caregivers and
caretakers, cleaners, plumbers and pipe fitters, welders and cooks are likewise became in demand.
Tablee 2 the next page presents the top seafarers occupations. These are able seaman,
oiler, ordinary seaman, chief cook, second mate, buson, third engineer officer, messman and
waiter and waitress.

Table 1. Top deployment of Filipino Workers by Top Ten Occupation Categories 2014
Major Occupational
1. Household Service Workers such as domestic helpers, drivers
2. Professional nurses and related works
3. Waiters, Bartenders and related works
4. Caregivers and caretakers
5. Cleaners and related works
6. Laborers and related works
7. Electrical works
8. Plumbers and Pipe Fitters
9. Welders
10. Cooks and related works
Source: POEA Statistics

Table 2. Seafarers by top ten occupations: 2014


1. Able Seaman
2. Oiler
3. Ordinary Seaman
4. Chief cook
5. Second mate
6. Bosun
7. Third Engineer Officer
8. Messman
9. Third mate
10. Waiter/waitress
Source: POEA Statistics
Deployed Filipino Workers
Again, in reference to the POEA Statistical Report 2014, land based workers both for new
hires (first time to work) and rehires (balikbayans), total deployments were 1,832,668 all over the
world. They are employed in various types of land based and sea based jobs.

Table 3. Number of workers deployed Filipino workers


Land based Workers - 1,430,842
Sea based Workers -

401,826

Number of deployed OFWs: 1,832,668


Source: Philippine Overseas Employment Administration Statistics 2014
Reasons of Labor Migration
There are several studies that have discussed about the reasons of the constant increase of
migration of Filipino workers. It was indicated that the Philippines have one of the largest
migration outflows in the world and these movements of people are driven by the push and pull
factors.

Former POEA Administrator Manalili (2009), discussed the push factors that explain
why Filipino workers choose to work overseas.

According to Manalili, high levels of

unemployment bring the push factors. This includes the limited opportunities for employment,
low salary, and poverty among others in the country. She further reported that the exodus of
overseas Filipino labor accelerated every year. This report is supported by the number of
deployment of Filipino workers all over the world that has more than doubled from 988,615
workers in 2005 to 1,832,668 in 2014. They are mainly in the Middle East countries.
Advincula (2005) in his book OFW Remittances, Community, Social and Personal
Services and the Growth of Social Capital, support Manalilis statement that the Filipino
workers income is not enough to support even the most basic needs of the family. The prices of
basic commodities continue to increase thus making more difficult for many families to send their
children to school.
Other readings on migration also specified the reason of Filipinos migration, which
includes debts to settle, dreaming to have a house, to have more food to eat and the desire for a
more comfortable future.
On the other hand, the pull factors of Filipino migration as raised in the study of Aguilar
(2000) were employment opportunities. The much higher income or the great wage differential
between local and overseas employment made them choose to work abroad. The lucrative
compensation being given cannot be resisted. The benefits and better working conditions cannot
be denied as great opportunity for a better life.
The professional growth came out as another consideration for working abroad. The
cultures that migrants will acquire and the places they can visit by working abroad is another
story. In other readings it was mentioned also that migrants go out the country because they are
influenced by friends to go abroad. And others said it was a longtime dream since childhood to
seek employment in other country.

Labor shortages by more developed countries was also considered as pull factor for
migration. Also the less strict policy of the transfer of employees or movement of natural persons
across borders gave chances to Filipinos to work abroad. These push many Filipinos to find jobs
in foreign countries.

Hypothesis Testing
The study tested the null hypothesis that whether the high unemployment rate is the main reason
and the push factor for refuge and for a better life in the growing trend of OFWs.
(Ho) = 0: The unemployment rate is a significant contributor to the outflux of Filipinos to work
overseas and that there is a high correlation between them.
(H1) 0: The unemployment rate is not a significant contributor to the outflux of Filipino
migrant workers. Data cannot have an error because the data gathered from the
POEA is accurate from 2011 to 2015.

Table 4 shows that the correlation between the numbers of unemployed to the number of
Filipinos going abroad is p>.05 therefore thre is no significant correlation
between the variables.
Table 4-A
Data gathered from Philippine Statistics Authority are as follows.
YEAR
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015

2014

No. of Unemployed OFWs

No of Deployed OFWs

2,901,540
2,926,296
2,904,326
3,119,100
2,765,466

1,832,668
1,836,345
1,802,031
1,687,831
1,795,758

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Table 4-B
Correlations
NoUnemployed
NoUnemployed

Pearson Correlation

DeployedOFWs
1

Sig. (2-tailed)

.172

N
DeployedOFWs

-.717

Pearson Correlation
Sig. (2-tailed)

-.717

.172

Issues Faced by Overseas Filipino Workers


With almost four decades now of Filipinos going overseas to work, there are still many
issues arising from migration flows.
Many researches have already been devoted about Filipino migration including its
advantages and consequences. These includes issues such as the vulnerability of migrants from
their being non-nationals in the other countries and exploitation and abuses even though Filipino
workers have the skills.
Also, migration issues continued to be subsumed under anti-colonial issues and antiimperialist struggle during the Marcos era. Among these was brain drain due to the departure of
professionals such as our doctors and engineers.
In the study of Caguiao and Olga (2014), OFWs issues posted in Pinoy OFW Facebook
Page includes confiscation of passports by employers; non-payment or reduction of wages; long
working hours and no days off; deprivation of privacy; sub-standard diet; denied access to friends
and family; denied medical and health services and exposure to physical, sexual and emotional
abuses.

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However, there is a common notion on the issue of migration that the government lacks
protection and concern to our OFWs. In fact some militant critics would assert that our
government is unmindful to the problems of OFWs says Migrante International and Kabatan
Partylist.
Also according to Tulfo (2015), most of the distressed OFWs could not depend on the
government to get home. As further stressed by Ridon (2005), the Aquino administration does
not consider legal assistance for Filipino workers abroad as an essential government service.
It is a common knowledge that we hear news about our OFWs problems affecting their
work and stay with their employer. This can be heard and seen almost every day as reported in
the television by ABS-CBN and GMA 7. If these issues are true, why are there still many Filipino
migrants leaving even though their lives will be at risk?
Aside from the emotional and physical harm, the issue on the continued outflow of
Filipino workers in large numbers has led to the questions regarding the permission of such
crusade. Others argue that we have surplus of many skills and to stop them from leaving the
country will violates their basic human right to pursue a better life in other countries.
Another issue involves of the export of manpower implies the earnings for the
government. Most studies of external migration cited foreign exchange remittances as the
principal benefit derived from migration. The OFWs dollar remittance continues to help our
economy.
How about the brain drain issue? We lost our skilled workers. Having said all that, our
government has been telling us that they have put so much attention to the plight of our OFWs. In
fact in the study of Dimzon (2008) stated that protection given to worker includes blacklisting of
employer violators and strengthening bilateral agreements for areas of cooperation in the field of
employment.

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However, number of issues about administering migrant programs still remains. The
researcher intention is to examine the effects of these massive flows of overseas Filipino Workers
and hope to accomplish identify issues about the outflow of these migrants.

Summary of Findings
As observed by the many experts in the field of Filipino migration, indeed there is a
massive exodus of migration of Filipino workers known as the Overseas Filipino Workers
(OFWs). POEA recorded a deployment of 1.8 million in 2014 and has doubled its number of 9
million in 2005. The reason of its acceleration is largely due to the high level of unemployment
and incidence of poverty in our country.
According to studies, the significance of overseas employment in our economy cannot be
overemphasized.

The OFW remittances generated national income to help our countrys

economy. Our country has huge debts, but the OFWs foreign exchange remittances have kept the
countrys debts from increasing. Other economic benefits of labor migration include employment.
It was affirmed that working abroad makes them financially stable and a secured future. Migrants
have bigger and better dreams for themselves and most especially for their family.
However, negative effects of migration cannot be denied. Studies showed the problems
associated to migration include exposure to vulnerable occupations and discrimination. The
Filipino migrant workers are also exposed to occupations doing the most dangerous, difficult and
dirty jobs. They also suffer from maltreatment of some wicked employers and worst illegally
recruited.
Others stated about the brain drain issue such as the loss of many doctors, scientists,
pilots, teachers and other professionals going to other countries that may cause considerable
damage to our country. Also, according to some arguments, exporting skilled manpower is a
waste of resources because after training the worker, you lose him/her to another country.

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However, employment and salary offer cannot be resisted. The chances of getting work or the
opportunity of work is high as Filipinos are in demand in the world. The salary offer is more than
three times bigger than what they will receive in our country.
Social consequences of overseas employment were also mentioned in some studies,
which include separation from family members. These cause loneliness and emotional stress and
sometimes would lead to broken families because of the compelling need to earn a decent living.
As experts on migration said, as long as our country is faced with unemployment and
poverty, the government cannot stop the workers from seeking employment abroad and exodus of
migrants will continue and rise.
There is also a correlation with our economy with the remittances of our OFWs to our
country. Figure 5 shows the remittances of OFWs from 2010 to 2015

Figure 5

OFW Remittance (In Million


Dollars)
25,000
24,000
23,000
22,000
21,000
20,000
19,000
18,000

2010

OFW Remittance (In


20,563
Million Dollars)

2011

2012

21,922

21,391

Source: Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas

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2013

2014

22,984 24,628

Also, as said earlier, the result of Pearsons r, the result rejects the Ho. The p-value is at 0.172,
which is above the 0.05 standard. Therefore, this means that there is no correlation between the
said variables. These maybe because of the data gathered were just from 2011-2015.

Conclusions
Overseas employment is now a global phenomenon. In search of employment and higher
incomes, Filipinos travel all over the world offering services to foreign employers. The
unemployment rate is however the big factor in working overseas and the reason of the massive
exodus of Filipino migration.
Another factor of the massive Filipino migration according to research is due to global
labor market demand. Looking at the global arena, the prospects for employment of Filipino
workers will continue for many reasons. Europes aging population will require health workers
and the oil-rich Middle East countries will continue to hire skilled Filipino workers and
professionals for their infrastructure projects.
The Filipino migrant workers are found in 200 countries doing variety of jobs. The
international movements of Filipino workers are undoubtedly large and becoming larger and
larger as new migration areas is discovered. The POEA statistics showed in the year 2014
deployment was 1.836 million Filipino workers higher that what was deployed in 2013 which
was 1.802. The stock estimate of Filipinos working and living abroad in the same year was 10.2
million.
Also, in the life of a typical Filipino family, parents would like to give a better future to
their loved ones, especially their childrens education. Besides, good opportunities in our country
are not abundant to achieve but working abroad is one way of fulfilling these dreams most
especially to improve their quality of life. It also brings prestige, fulfilment of dreams, happiness
and ability to support relatives. This pushes many Filipinos to work abroad.

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Considering the migration gains in terms of opportunity for job overseas, better life for
OFWs and the remittances generated for national income, the challenge is how to facilitate access
to overseas employment opportunities while at the same time ensuring protection to our millions
of OFWs worldwide.
As the test showed, there is a non-significant correlation between unemployment in the
Philippines and the outlux of OFWs. However, I would still recommend Filipino workers to go
abroad especially if the pull factors greatly outweigh the consequences of going abroad. Also, the
remmitance of the OFWs has great impact in the economy of the country.
At the moment, the government cannot stop the workers from seeking employment
abroad as long as unemployment and poverty still exist in our country. In fact, these are the very
same reasons as discussed by the many studies on migration why Filipino migrated and still
would want to migrate.
Although, the decision to leave the country and work overseas is a personal choice of the
worker, it is important that they should be provided the services needed from the time they apply
for work, while they are on the worksites, the time they return home to enable them to achieve
their mission of security for themselves and for their families. Effective management of labor
migration is very important in support to our Filipino unsung heroes, our OFWs.

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Casco, Liberty. Philippine Policy on Managing Migration. Mandaluyong: POEA.
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University Press, 1999.
"Filipino Migration: A Brief History." Http://pmscontario.tripod.com/id1.html. Accessed May 5,
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Makinano, Merliza. Overseas Strategy Plan on Labor and Employment and Human Resource
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Philippine Statistics Authority 2014
POEA - Philippine Overseas Employment Administration
POEA Annual Report. 2009.
POEA Quality Manual. 2012.
Perez, Aurora. Understanding Filipino Migration. College of Social Sciences and Philosophy,
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"Stock Estimate of Overseas Filipinos."
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