UNLESS the price of oil moves back to at least $90 per barrel, China’s economy roars into the 10 percent growth rate territory; the radical Islamists neutralized in the Middle East and Africa, and life threatening health outbreaks contained in areas of deployment, the 10 to 12 million Overseas Filipino Workers face repatriation, joining the millions of already unemployed and underemployed in the Philippines.
Not to worry, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz assures OFWs, especially those in the Middle East.
On Feb. 2, 2016, Secretary Baldoz said, “thousands of career and livelihood opportunities are available to OFWs who are looking to return to the country.”
But thousands of “opportunities” for hundreds of thousands, or millions actually returning?
The numbers do not add up, except that OFWs who cannot find jobs, or livelihood opportunities that pay the same as the overseas earnings must rely on their savings, if any.
What jobs are available from the government’s official job portal – PhilJobNet – that returning OFWs may apply for?
At the time of this writing (Feb. 13, 2016) there were only 772 job listings. And according to the website, “all posted announcements have expired… There are no new announcements at the moment.” The POEA, however, states there are 200,100 jobs available on PhilJobNet in November 2015.
The POEA-fact sheet of November 2015 also shows the following:
Total number of OFWs potentially displaced estimated at 2,006.644, mainly from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Qatar. Of this total, 1,722,279 are documented, 55,914 are undocumented.
Four out of five (OFWs) or 1,229,378 are semi or low-skilled workers and household service workers.
The categories (determined to better chances of immediate employment because of “high imbalance, demand more than the supply locally) are for Salesmen, shop assistants and related workers (806); Other low-skilled occupations (108,128).
Occupations with low probability of employment because of “low imbalance” projection are clerks and related workers (7,095); salesmen, shop assistants and related workers (5,767; and other semi/low-skilled occupations (139,437).
Total demand or potential “career” opportunities for displaced OFWs are estimated at 203,747. Some occupations may have high skill imbalance (demand is more than supply) while other occupations are on the low scale.
It should be noted that whether in the high or low skill imbalance, the occupations are in the entry or semi-skilled level positions – trades, technician, helpers, assistants – not professionals.
Even put together, the total shortage (in the low and high skill imbalance occupations) for available jobs (182,189) is woefully inadequate to put at least 1,541,995 displaced OFWs to work.
The others would have to try to earn income from “Livelihood opportunities.” OFWs may avail of business or start-up loans from the P2 billion National Reintegration Loan Fund from OWWA; DOLE Integrated Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program, P1.044 billion; and the DSWD Sustainable Livelihood Program, P9.6 billion.
Are these billions of loan funds available now?
According to the POEA, these billions of pesos of potential capital to start up a livelihood opportunity had been incorporated into the 2016 General Appropriations Act. (So the answer is “maybe.”)
Loans for livelihood programs may also be applied for through private sector funding, such as those available collaboration programs and partnership of the DOLE, with Coca Cola Philippines Inc., Ayala Land, Philippine Franchising Association and the Philippine Plastics Association. No minimum amount of available funds was announced.
Livelihood opportunities are mainly for self-employment (Coca Cola 5×20 is basically loans and training for those intending to put up a sari-sari store) involving loans.
February PhilJobNet Listings
Labor Secretary Baldoz said that as of this month (February) “there are 230,000 job vacancies culled from employers’ postings on the PhilJobNet and from government agencies. These vacancies include 30,000 teachers for public schools and 15,000 nurses for government hospitals.”
“Of the total number, 90,000 are overseas vacancies in alternative markets derived from valid job orders in the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA),” Baldoz added.
Options for OFWs
Livelihood opportunities and local employment may tide the OFWs over in the short run, but until there are sufficient well-paying, decent jobs that a worker or professional can hold on to in the long run, overseas employment will always be the preferred option.
Jobs are created by the government and private sectors. Investors through foreign direct investments will come if the cost and ease of doing business in the Philippines is competitive.
In October 2015, the World Bank reported that the Philippines “slipped six notches in terms of ease of doing business despite reforms made by the government in expediting ways of starting businesses.” The drop put the Philippines on the 103rd spot from 189 economies worldwide.
For an OFW to be considered “world class” and therefore, able to compete among peers in the local market (as well as with workers in Asia as a result of the ASEAN integration) the Filipino professional or skilled worker must be equal to his or her counterpart in Asia, as well as in the First World countries with permanent migration programs –Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK and the USA.
Accreditation of credentials, qualifications and skills is the key to global competitiveness, whether as a temporary worker or permanent resident.
Yet Filipino nurses are not considered as the equal of an Australian, Canadian, NZ, UK or US counterpart. The same is true with any professional or skilled worker, particularly engineers.
A Filipino RN would have to take additional courses to bridge the gap between their competency and academic credentials. While an RN may take the NCLEX exam in the Philippines and apply for credential evaluation through the CGFNS to work or emigrate to the U.S.; the same RN must take up the bridging course or competency assessment program in Australia and New Zealand respectively. The bridging and competency assessment is not given or available in the Philippines.
For Canada, an NCLEX-licensed nurse may be able to jumpstart his or her career in Canada since Canada has adopted the NCLEX as the licensure/registration system. But even with an NCLEX passing score, a Filipino nurse must take up a Substantially Equivalent Competency program in Canada. This equivalency program is also not available in the Philippines.
Even skilled workers in Australia seeking to emigrate must have their skills evaluated by Trades Recognition Australia despite certificates of competency issued by TESDA.
A key ingredient, therefore, toward making the Filipino professional or skilled worker a world-class worker desired by foreign investors in the Philippines and employers overseas is to raise their academic credentials and qualifications to world standards.
The K-to-12 program was initiated to bring the Philippine educational system and graduates to world standard at least in the technical-vocational fields.
Without a supply of decent jobs paying more than just minimum or subsistence level, the Filipino professional or skilled worker will revert back to overseas employment.
Without competitive and recognized qualifications and credentials, the OFW may be underemployed abroad, although paid a much higher salary or earn better income.
Current and potential livelihood opportunities recommended may make for honest living, but one does not have to have a degree or tech-voc diploma to be an entry-level businessperson. Should Asian workers ease Filipinos out of the Asean job market and the likes of Coca Cola 5×20 livelihood becomes the default option, how’s this adaptation for a song then (from “Bahay Kubo”)?
“Bayang Pinas, kahit munti, hanapbuhay doon ay sari-sari.”