Overseas employment: Great gender equalizer?

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CRISPIN R. ARANDA

HOW, where and when do Filipino women become competitive in today’s job marketplace?

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With 5,725 Filipinos born daily—male babies edging their female counterparts 50.1 percent to 49.9 percent— it is not surprising that with a current population of over 103 million, Filipino men are more active in the workplace than their female counterparts.

In 2014, of the total 38.6 million employed persons in the 24 to 44 age range, 60.4 percent were Filipino males compared to 15,286 Filipino women in various occupations.

There were more high school and elementary graduates employed than those who had college degrees or higher —16,463 to 6,168.
In the same year, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that of the 2.4 million Overseas Filipino Workers, there were more women employed overseas as laborers and unskilled workers (1.2 million) compared to their male counterparts at 1.1 million.

On the other side of the labor spectrum, women also dominate the professional occupation category 66.34 percent against only 33.66 percent for men.

The men dominated as workers in trades and related jobs, particularly as plant-machine operators and assemblers. In the service workers category, the women had a slight edge over the men 50.72 percent to 49.28 percent, respectively.

Offshore, the type of work and country of employment apparently play a role in the reversal of continued overseas employment for women OFWs after the age of 35. The accompanying graph from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) illustrates this reality.

The PSA’s Statistical Handbook on Women and Men in the Philippines states that white-collar and clerical occupations are occupied mostly by women. There were two women for every man in professional and clerical occupations. On the other hand, plant and machine operators, and special occupation groups were dominated by men. There were six men for every woman in these occupation groups in 2014.\

Note: Percentages taken from the special report “Women and Men in the Philippines” published by the Philippine Statistics Authority in 2016. Total deployed numbers are from the POEA Employment Statistics for 2014-2015

Saudi Arabia remained the top destination for overseas Filipino workers for both genders. One in every four OFWs (24.7 percent) worked in Saudi Arabia, which remained to be the top destination of OFWs in April to September 2015. Other countries in Asia which were popular destinations of OFWs were United Arab Emirates (15.5 percent), Hong Kong (5.9 percent), Kuwait (5.8 percent), Singapore (5.7 percent) and Qatar (5.5 percent).

Deployment in 2000, 2010
In 2000, women deployed as administrative and managerial workers comprise close to 23 percent. A decade after, not only has the percentage increased (69.4 percent) but also the actual numbers (from only 64 to 590).

During the same period, the jump in participation of women in what appeared to be an overseas category overwhelmingly male are short of phenomenal. From 26 percent of the total deployed, Filipino women surpassed the number of men employed as clerical and related workers in 2010.

While the percentage of women working as transport equipment operators and laborers remained the same at 23 percent for that decade, the total number of women increased from 16,400 to 23,016.

On the other hand, in those jobs that do not require brawn but intellect and emotional care, the women continued to dominate the occupation fields of nurses and service workers, particularly caregivers.

At the same time, the combined efforts of migrant advocacy groups and the Philippine government’s response to protect women from exploitation and abuse, the dancers, “cultural workers” in Japan – which was 34,475 in 2000 – literally vanished. In 2010, there were only 743 women deployed in the composers, musicians and singers category. The sub-category of dancers was removed.

For jobs requiring professionalism with a soft touch, the women continued to increase their ranks. These include dental assistants, dentists, dietitians, physical and occupational therapists.

From a 54 percent participation rate in 2000, Filipino women gave their male counterparts stiff competition, edging them a decade letter as waiters, bartenders and related workers.

What the numbers suggest is that women’s competitiveness increases with the level of their educational achievement coupled with society’s recognition – albeit begrudgingly—of the women’s worth and value in the occupation of their choosing.

Notes: For the year 2000, only the total Female OFWs are listed with the total for each skill category as listed on the POEA classification. There had been changes in some classifications, especially in the Service Workers category and may not reflect the actual total. Stats from each category were summed up based on the nearest comparable skill classification.

More than recognition, there is the respect for gender equality, particularly in the Western Countries such as the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia where Filipino women can compete based on merits: education, training, experience and talent.

In fact, these four countries (called Commonwealth nations) have their list of shortage occupations where gender is not a factor to qualify and be eligible for permanent residency.

Australia’s latest Skilled Occupations List (July 2016), for example, is peppered with occupations in the healthcare field professions (medical doctors, registered nurses, psychologists, and teachers) in which women have performed consistently well.

Even New Zealand’s Long Term Skills Shortage List (LTSSL) favor women with college degrees in the health and social services category, teachers and even those in IT-related disciplines.

Finally, the wages or salaries of women in the aforementioned occupations are much higher than what they would receive if they are lucky enough to find jobs at home.

Average daily basic pay of Filipino Workers at home, October 2015
In October 2015, the average daily basic pay of laborers (mostly those with high school of elementary diplomas) was P218.12 compared to P474.07 for clerks. Because of job mismatch or lack of employment opportunities, college graduates usually get entry level positions as clerks.

Professionals on the other hand (those with college degrees plus experience or with advanced degrees or further education) get an average basic daily wage rate of P762.95.

It is public knowledge that the higher grade completed or education obtained, the higher the salary, job opportunities, and career advancement.

Service workers, for example, in Canada (waiters, bartenders, baristas, food and beverage service attendants) earn $10 to $12 per hour (P376.19) higher than the daily wage of a Fillipino woman working In the same occupation in the Philippines.

It can be argued that while OFWs earn more, they also have to contend with higher prices compared to what they can purchase in the country. But the number of hours they have to work to buy a similar food item in the Philippines, for example, would be shorter. For example, a meal for two people in in a mid-range restaurant in Makati would cost a service worker in the Philippines four days in wages, but only seven hours of work for the same service in Toronto, Canada.

The value of one’s work is appreciatively higher overseas than at home, especially for women (in the age group 25 to 29 years old) which could be the factor in having the number of female OFWs proportionately higher than men from 2000 to 2015 as reported in PSA’s Handbook for Men and Women for 2015.

As popular DWIZ broadcaster Ruth Abao would urge today’s Filipinas – “Push mo ‘yan, Teh!”

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