The Philippines’ support system for migrant labor could serve as a model for other Southeast Asian countries and also help deepen regional economic integration, the World Bank said.
In its “Migrating to Opportunity” report, the Washington-based multilateral lender said the Philippines — one of the largest suppliers of overseas workers in the world — had a migration system with clearly defined institutional responsibilities.
“In the Philippines, several migrant-focused agencies are housed mostly within the Department of Labor and Employment. Their roles and responsibilities are well defined, with the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency responsible mainly for managing migration and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration responsible mainly for protecting migrants,” it pointed out.
The World Bank noted that in the Philippines, recruitment agencies must attend an orientation seminar prior to receiving a license and a continuing education seminar for license renewal.
The government also provides a listing of job opportunities available abroad through the job advertising site JobStreet.com and offers an orientation program to workers contemplating migration.
The lender also lauded the Pre-Employment Orientation Seminar (PEOS) for potential migrants, which includes modules on working overseas, job search, illegal recruitment, allowable fees and the essential provisions of the employment contract, and country-specific information.
The PEOS is mandatory but can be completed online at no cost.
“Some good practices identified with Philippine orientation programs are involving local government partners and nongovernmental organizations to incorporate a rights perspective, creating a post-arrival orientation seminar to ensure that learning does not stop at departure, developing orientation programs for recruiters, and providing migration information at the local level,” the World Bank said.
“To build on this status, the country should continue to evaluate and improve its migration management system, including oversight of recruitment agencies, programs for returned migrants, and data sharing and interoperability,” it added.
Southeast Asia, it said, saw intra-regional migration increase significantly between 1995 and 2015. Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand turned into regional hubs with 6.5 million migrants — 96 percent of the migrant workers in the region.
Many low-skilled and often undocumented migrants move in search of economic opportunity, mainly in the construction, plantation, and domestic services sectors. Higher-salary jobs are available, yet workers are not always able to take advantage of these opportunities, the World Bank said.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has taken steps to facilitate mobility but its regulations only cover certain skilled professions — doctors, dentists, nurses, engineers, architects, accountants, and tourism professionals — or just 5 percent of jobs in the region.
Overall, the World Bank noted that migration procedures across Asean remained restrictive.
Barriers such as costly and lengthy recruitment processes, restrictive quotas on the number of foreign workers allowed and rigid employment policies were said to be constraining worker employment options and their welfare.
These policies are partly influenced by the perception that an influx of migrants will have negative impacts on the receiving economy, it said.
The report estimated that reducing barriers to mobility would improve workers’ welfare, by 14 percent if limited to high-skilled workers and by 29 percent if all workers were included.