TWO quotes from Heraclitus ring relevant and timely for 10 to 12 million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs): “The only thing that is constant is change” and “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
The Commission on Filipinos Overseas’ latest statistics (December 2013) put the stock estimate of Overseas Filipinos at 10,238,614. The total figure is further divided into permanent and temporary. The number is almost evenly divided between permanent and temporary workers with 1.1 million categorized as “irregulars.”
More Filipinos coming home because of economic prosperity – Aquino
If we are to believe President BS Aquino’s claim during his speech before the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, however, the number of OFWs has been reduced to “around 9.4 million” because they “returned home to the Philippines…because of improving economic conditions.”
In his final SONA July 2015, PNoy reported that “(E)very year, around 80,000 new entrants join our labor force. Now, consider the fact that there are reports of overseas Filipinos returning home. In 2011, our Department of Foreign Affairs reported that there were around 9.51 million overseas Filipinos. Based on the latest estimates in December 2014, that number went down to 9.07 million. It is reasonable to say that a good number of the estimated 440,000 Filipinos represented by that decrease came home and were able to find work.” [Applause]
As the table above shows, the number of permanent residents increased, instead of being reduced. What declined were the temporary resident stats worldwide, down 117,370 in 2013 from three years back. The decline in numbers is clearly shown in deployment numbers for temporary workers to West Asia, including Saudi Arabia: the total dropped to 2,308,087 from 2,717,046. In KSA, the decline was from 1,482,185 to 948,038 or a total of 534,147 less OFWs deployed.
In 2014, the POEA reported that deployment of new hires and rehires to Saudi Arabia totaled only 402,837.
The fall in deployment numbers does not translate to a reduction of money sent back home to OFW families.
The Bangko Sentral reported on Feb. 20, 2016 that personal remittances from Filipino overseas rose to a record high of $28.48 billion. “The continued deployment of skilled overseas Filipinos remained a key factor to growth in inflows” the central bank continued.
In his Sixth State of the Nation Address (July 2015) President BS Aquino took a recurring swipe at former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“Our predecessor took pride in ‘uninterrupted growth’ during her last SONA. Scrutinize what she said, however, and you would realize that a significant portion of this growth was fueled by remittances from Filipinos who had lost hope in our country. As they say: People were voting with their feet. If I were to imitate that style of governance, I would be loath to claim a success borne of forcing my countrymen to escape our shores.”
PNoy has a lot of loathing to do – if he sticks by his word.
Go West, Young and Old Men and Women
In 1865 the term “Go west, young man” reflected the need for America to expand to the West for opportunities to succeed.
In the mid-70s the temporary export of skilled manpower was more of “Go East – Middle East – young Pinoys” for jobs and better pay. Midway into the 4th decade after, the PNoy Administration echoes the pivot to the West of OFWs.
And the intention is not to be temporary but rather permanent residents in the West and First nations. The number of permanent residents to the US, Canada and Australia had increased. And for the US alone, there are 417,511 Filipinos waiting for their permanent resident visas, not to mention more than 1,200 applying for temporary visas to the United States.
Permanent residency options in the West
While the US admits more than a million permanent residents every year, the most viable options for OFWs and their children are in Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Forget the UK as well since it is the official policy of the Home Office tandem of Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa Mays to reduce the number of non-EU nationals.
This year for example, the TalentGroup Company in Canada announced the top 10 skilled trades needed in that country.
Top 10 Skilled Trades in Canada
1. Electrical and Telecommunications Contractor
2. Longshore Workers
3. Heavy Construction Equipment Supervisor
4. Oil and Gas Well Operators
5. Construction Manager
6. Locomotive Engineer
7. Construction Trades / Contractors Supervisor
8. Pipefitting Contractor and Supervisor
9. Power Line and Cable Worker
10. Industrial Electrician
For children of OFWs, studying in Canada, Australia or New Zealand means better opportunities to learn and earn. International students are authorized to work at least 20 hours a week while studying, and engage in full-time work when school is not in session. At an average CAD300 weekly, a Filipino student can earn up to P41,426.00 a month.
Since the academic school year runs for eight months and off-season period four months, the Filipino student stands to earn P662,816.00 a year, more than the highest annual salary of nurses in the Philippines.
And for someone who has at least one year work experience pursuing further studies in Canada or Australia, access to employers offers immediate eligibility to apply for permanent residency through Canada’s Express Entry or Australia’s SkillSelect program.
The world is changing and so are you. And remember as well, opportunities expire.