IF 6,092,Filipinos leave to work overseas everyday (according to government agency statistics in 2015), how many foreigners choose to migrate to the Philippines?
No Filipino would publicly and honestly admit that leaving family and country is his destiny if choices are available. The reality, however, reflects the fact that we now have 12 to 14 million Filipinos overseas, in various destinations with 1 to 2 million permanently or temporarily in the Middle East and Asia.
The Bureau of Immigration (BI) does not have regular published statistics on how many foreigners are in the country temporarily or permanently. In 2010, however, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that 177,400 foreign citizens were in the country, the majority of whom were from the United States of America – 29, 959. China was a close second (28,750), while Japanese and Indians were a far third and fourth, 11,583 and 8,963 respectively. Canada was a distant fifth at 5,000.
On January 26, 2011, the assistant chief of the Immigration Alien Registration division Ferdinand Arbas was quoted on GMA News Online as saying that the number of mainland Chinese nationals in the Philippines more than doubled in 2010: from 30,809 to 61,372.
PSA figures also show that “three in 10 foreign citizens (31.1 percent) were residing in National Capital Region (NCR) at the time of the census. Those residing in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao made up 22.3 percent of the total foreign citizens. Region III had 9 percent, Region IVA had 8.4 percent, and Region VII had 6 percent of the total foreign citizens. Region IX had the least proportion at 0.5 percent.”
Majority of foreign citizens come from the United States of America
The State Department places the number of Filipinos in the US at 4 million, bigger than the combined number of Filipino resident communities in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK/Europe. In addition, America admits anywhere from 50,000 to 60,000 Filipino immigrants.
It is not surprising then that more Americans (make that Filipino- Americans) are permanently residing in the Philippines, at least officially, because the actual number of Chinese nationals in the Philippines may not be ascertained given the ease by which they can move from China to the northern provinces.
According BI statistics, the number of foreign migrants in the country grew 50 percent over a three-year period from 60,554 in 2007 to 90,413 in 2010.
Despite the increase in official numbers of foreign nationals seeking to make the Philippines their home or place of permanent residency, there are still more Filipinos leaving the country than there are foreigners wanting to live here.
Despite the aggressive marketing efforts of the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) to market Filipino skills and talent, OFW deployment seems to have plateaued since 2012. With the increased conflict in the Middle East Africa and campaign against illegal aliens among Asian neighbors, deployment numbers could still go down.
Top categories of OFWs
The fine-tuning of destination countries with permanent migration programs, stricter regulatory requirement to practice one’s profession contributed to the deployment of mostly household workers in 2015, according to POEA data.
General laborers, manual skilled workers and household or service workers usually are not regulated occupations, unlike skilled workers and professionals. As long as there are employers putting ion job orders for laborers and skilled workers especially in construction and mineral extraction resources, deployment is fast and easy.
In 2014, laborers and skilled workers comprised 32.8 percent of all OFWs deployed. The next year, it was 33.2 percent of total deployment.
Skilled workers and professionals, on the other hand, have to comply with the requirements to practice their occupation in the country of intended destination. Registered nurses, for example, are considered skilled workers and not professionals in the US. Yet they must provide evidence that their education, practice, training is the equivalent of an American or resident RN. In addition, English proficiency is a must. Communication skills is normally not required for laborers and skilled workers since they work under the supervision and direction of a foreman or lead person, as in the case of the Middle East.
Hence in 2015 and the succeeding years, OFWs were “still composed of household service workers,” according to POEA data and the categories of job orders on the POEA website.
Australia requires intending migrants to have their skills assessed by the official assessing organization for a specific occupation. For example, engineers must have a positive or suitable assessment from Engineers Australia.
Those who have gained experience overseas (especially in the top 10 destination countries) get a more globally accepted qualification and experience. More importantly, RNs, teachers or engineers who have accumulated two to three years’ experience in an international setting become better suited to migrate because they would have earned and saved enough.
By now, OFWs are aware that the longer they stay in their current country of work, the chances of migrating gets more difficult because the assigned points for age become lower.
With the continuing conflict in the Middle East and the shifting alliances between and among the countries with a high number of OFWs, Filipino workers and professionals need to find a way to get their residency in any of the three countries with permanent residency programs where they can migrate with their families and enjoy a more peaceful life with social services and benefits.
Why OFWs risk life and limb abroad
Simply put: lack of employment opportunities at home. And after acquiring a globally competitive qualification and world-class experience overseas a Filipino worker would rather chance it by moving to another country and wait out the threat of war/conflict rather than return home.
Confirming the lack of quality jobs with the same pay that OFWs receive from overseas employment, Roque said, “the government is exhausting efforts to attend to the needs of repatriated Filipino migrant workers with instructions to missions all over the Middle East to sign alternative employment for our kababayan.”
Unless the Philippines changes from a country where just about 50 Filipinos own 24 percent of the country’s gross domestic product or national wealth, those in the middle-to-lower-income classes would either have to have exceptional boxing skills, acting or modeling skills, a celebrity, or a politician to get ahead in life at home.
Of course, being a call center agent is also a logical choice but only for those with communication skills especially English language proficiency.
For the rest, being an OFW remains the inescapable destiny.