• Live or leave


    Has the migration fever gone down with the Aquino government?

    Why do Filipinos leave the Philippines instead of living here?

    In the early ‘70s when the Marcos government launched the manpower export program —and the government agency in charge was not the POEA but the Overseas Employment Development Board, the main push factor was the lack of economic opportunities at home. There simply were not enough jobs for a burgeoning population.

    In 1975, there were 36,035 Filipinos deployed for overseas work: there were more sea-based migrants than land-based workers—23,534 to 12,501 respectively. The top region of destination was the Gulf countries because of the world’s thirst for oil and the resultant need to build the infrastructures to extract the black oil from the desert to the lush industrial landscape of the West.

    A year after the EDSA revolution, the total number of OFWs zoomed to 449,271. This time the land-based workers outnumbered the sea-based workers 382,229 to 67,042.

    Despite a change in government, the moral ascent of the Yellow Revolution did not overcome the people’s need to provide for themselves and their families. The stock market was good and foreign investments were coming in but there were still less jobs than there were people. Until they were called the New Heroes the Overseas Filipinos were not fully aware that they were doing their country a favor through their remittances.

    As America had been addicted to easy access to qualified healthcare workers, the Philippines became a labor-export junkie. Despite denials that labor export is an official policy, the POEA kept reporting increases in deployment.

    In 2004, the total number of OFWs marketed and delivered was 933,588 and $8.6 billion in remittances. However, bulk of remittances was not where there are the most number of OFWs (Middle East) but from the United States. For that year, the top country for remittances was the US with $6.4 billion. Saudi Arabia came a distant second with $949.4 million.

    That’s because of two reasons: (1) OFWs deployed to the US were mostly professionals and in supervisory occupations and (2) the presence of a large community of permanent residents (PRs). These PRs not only are able to sponsor their families but also pursue better careers away from patronage politics.

    In July 2010 during the first 11 days of the current Aquino presidency, a Pulse Asia survey showed “fewer Filipinos want to work and live abroad” because they “fully trust [those]at the helm of government.”

    Two years later, a report from the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) said “four out of every 10 young Filipino students plan to work abroad after graduation.”

    The report was published by the Pinoy Youth Barometer, a project of AIM in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)… “specifically designed to collect information on the sentiments and attitudes of the Filipino youth towards migration, employment, education, and governance.”

    The survey further showed that 40.36 percent or four out of every 10 respondents indicated that they want to migrate to US, Canada, and Australia as the most desired destination.

    Of those who intend to migrate abroad, 71.69 percent have relatives with permanent residency abroad while 64.62 percent have relatives who are considered overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

    The top reasons to leave?

    “To send remittances to their families (75.22 percent), desire to experience other cultures (71.68 percent), and the lack of employment opportunities in the country (67.47 percent).”

    As for reasons that would make them live here, “82.19 percent of the respondents say family or to be with their families, 65.62 percent says to be with their friends, while 72.11 percent of them would stay for having a comfortable lifestyle in the Philippines.

    In December 2012, statistics said the Filipino permanent residents (legal and otherwise) outnumber temporary workers (OFWs). The Commission on Filipinos Overseas report showed 4,925,797 permanent residents, 4,221,041 OFWs and 1,324,790 in legal limbo, called irregulars. The Office of Immigration Statistics under the Department of Homeland Security estimates “270,000, or 2 percent, of the approximately 10.8 million unauthorized migrants in 2009 were born in the Philippines.”

    The State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs said that as of 2012, “over 450 thousand Filipinos were on the visa wait list, second only to Mexico and after Filipinos the third is India, fourth is Vietnam and the fifth is China. Filipinos have the longest waiting times for family reunification visas, as Filipinos disproportionately apply for family visas; this has led to visa petitions filed in July 1989 still waiting to be processed in March 2013.”

    Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines Neil Reeder in an interview during the Canada Trade Fair in Cebu said the number of Filipinos migrating to Canada should reach a million by 2025 from its current 800,000 total. Australian official figures cite 183,010 Philippine-born in Australia as of June 2011.

    With another million in Europe and about 30,000 in New Zealand, the 4 million estimate of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas apparently does not hit the mark. Even that be as it may, the fact remains that the push and pull factors of migration remain as strong as ever two years before PNoy’s term ends.

    Today, the straight and narrow path towards development is a yellow brick road to more than 5,000 Filipinos leaving daily – instead of living here – because the sterling performance of the economy under the present administration has not resulted in benefits for the bosses.

    Next week: Where Filipinos Find the Best Permanent Residency Program


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    1. if you are the president crispin, what are then your solutions to solve the problem/s you exposed and criticized?

      • Include migration as part of the curriculum, gradually increasing the participation of students from elementary to secondary and on to higher education. Initiate and foster school debates on the merits and flaws of migration.

        By requiring Filipinos to confront the issue early in life, we would realize that there are “push” factors we can control. Creating employment opportunities and combating poverty is a government function. Government, on the other hand, changes with each set of politicians “elected.”

        Require candidates to provide details – not platitudes or dancing, acting, boxing or singing onstage – of how they intend to improve the economy; increase job creation and competitiveness of Filipinos as part of their platform. Party platform with specifics must be published and presented as their road map to governing, projected on a yearly basis.

        Skilled migration is a global phenomenon, not endemic to the Philippines. But if Filipinos are to leave, the government must ensure that they are welcomed in the countries of destination as equals by internationalizing skill and occupation standards.

        As a concrete first step, ensure that the one million Overseas Filipinos who registered to vote are actually able to cast their ballots and that their votes are counted.

        With an informed electorate, responsible and an accountable government creating more opportunities at home, the pull factors would come not from outside but from within as Overseas Filipinos – contract workers and permanent residents, even those who have adopted citizenship abroad – trek back home in increasing numbers reversing the numbers of those leaving versus those who are living in the country.