What they called us in Hong Kong after the Azkals football team won over the local team in a “ friendly match” was this : slave country . Indeed, we are, there is no way of burying out heads in the sand in denial.
In fact , all sorts of countries and nation-states whose citizens can afford to pay domestic helps , drivers and caregivers can all us that – a slave country. Why, their citizens even have the luxury of sifting through thick application forms to get the best pick , the DH that would suit their budget and skill requirement .
We are not the only the most prodigious supplier of domestic helps . We are the best source , the go-to country for those needing the best helpers and even caregivers. If drivers to the rich and famous and members of the diplomatic corps can be lumped into the DH category , we are also tops in that field.
Helpers and handymen . It is our niche, the only question is whether we can mine something from this that can raise the level of national pride.
With the “ pride” equation set aside , there is one thing that is beyond dispute . Were we to grow by leaps and bounds overnight , and the national economy can generate decent-paying jobs that are enough to absorb every helper and handyman now overseas, there would be dysfunction in the societies that would be exited in mass by our handyman and helpers.
The husband-and-wife salaried couple in Hong Kong will have to make a painful re-adjustment . Who will work and who will stay at home to take care of the kids, cook and do the laundry and housecleaning ? The same, as far as the Asian setting is concerned , will apply in the middle-class enclaves in Singapore and in Malaysia .
All of these areas have been relying heavily on the Filipina DH to take care of the kids and the households. The family’s financial independence is secured by the indentured Filipina .
The mass exit of Filipina DH from the Hong Kong households will wreak havoc on the households that called us “ slave country.”
What affects the family, will also greatly impact on the GDP. Pull out one of the two major breadwinners from a family and what do we have . Reduced productivity , reduced national income , a less vibrant economy.
The impact of the mas exit of our DH from middle class Asia will be as felt in the European countries and in the Middle East. That there would be less regular church-goers in Italy once this takes place is not an attempt at phony levity but a fact of life. . Even in some remote reaches of the Scandinavian countries, Filipina DH are present—making lives better for their enlightened employers at present and their presence would be missed.
Truth is, in the countries with a strong sense of social justice , resigned or retired Filipina maids are still fondly remembered by their former employers . And their children employ the children of their former/retired maids.
Dislocated households, less national productivity, reduced number of church goers . If these are not central to the issues of the host nations to our maids , I don’t know what they are.
Denials that we are , indeed, a slave country, are useless. But this does not now mean that we will be stuck in this quagmire forever. What is the way out?
A full decade of double-digit growth, and all that growth taking place in the sectors that matter, will be enough to create all the remunerative land-based jobs currently held by
OFWs. ( There are overseas jobs that are forever and these are those held by merchant marine officers, Wall Street masters of the universe and select Silicon Valley jobs. ) But ten years of double-digit growth is more of a wish list than a probability . So this is out.
A giant oil find off the Benham rise , or in the areas yet to be fully explored , may bring the bonanza that many developing countries dream of. While an amazing manna from the patrimony is often a curse to the impoverished country that finds it, we will not fall into that trap. We will know how to use it. But then , we have to rule this out as there are no fossil indicators that a great oil reserve lies in our deep .
A gold vein richer than what the scam called the Bre- X had advertised to have existed in the wilds of Busang, Indonesia? I don’t think there is one such rich vein in the country. Rule this one out.
So we are left with the most amazing asset we have – our willing and capable work force.
The kind of workers we send overseas should transition from the helpers and handymen to Ferrari mechanics, Dreamliner pilots, oil rig crews and top-notch accountants . Those with job descriptions that make them indispensable to a First World economy.
If we can produce ten Oliver Tolentinos a year, that would be an addition .
It is not too late to build a state-sponsored school that focuses on the STEM . As I have said many times, this was the great scheme of an unrepentant socialist, Jawaharlal Nehru , for his beloved India. This led to India’s pre-eminent role as an exporter , not of helpers and handymen, but of CEOs.
“ Slave country “ should be a temporary calling and a rude wake-up call . We must now leverage our great human resource for the best and the greatest jobs in the world.