Top migration destinations for 2017



WITH less than two weeks into the new year (and more than a hundred days after Campaigner Duterte promised to end drugs and criminality in three to six months, only to request for a six-month extension and subsequently ask for a full term to deliver on his promises as now elected President), are Filipinos still considering migrating?

If yes, which countries offer the most opportunities for temporary and/or permanent residency?

But why migrate if 83 percent of Filipinos (supposedly represented by respondents in the latest Pulse Asia survey) approved and trust President Duterte) believe that life will be better (“comfortable,” Rody swears)?

The killing of drug and criminal suspects continue without let-up, PNP Chief Director General Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa claimed last week, even as he ordered police commanders to further intensify their efforts to end the illegal drug trade.

On the economic front, President Duterte’s economic managers predict a growth rate of seven percent or better this year. First Metro Investment Corp (FMIC), the investment arm of Metrobank, confirmed the growth rate of up to 7.5 percent “driven by infrastructure spending, foreign direct investment, consumer spending, remittances and business process outsourcing”

Infrastructure logically should generate employment for the engineering and construction industry; foreign direct investments (FDIs) nearly doubled in the first half of the year, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reaching $4.2 billion for the first semester of 2016 compared to only $2.2 billion for the same period in 2015.

What types of employment did the FDI create?

The equity capital placements (mainly from Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, the United States, and Taiwan) were channeled mostly into financial and insurance, real estate, manufacturing, construction, and accommodation and food service activities.

Construction, trade and related workers represent about 13 to 15 percent of the total wage and salary workers receiving anywhere from P200 to P300 daily (Philippine Statistics Authority).

The National Wages and Productivity Commission (under the Department of Labor and Employment) mandate a P491 basic daily wage. Theoretically, all non-agriculture workers in the National Capital Region, including those in the services sector (comprising more than half of wage and salary workers) should be receiving this daily wage. Sales, service, hotel, accommodation and food sector workers outside the NCR should be receiving anywhere from P260 (most regions) to P364 (Aurora, Quezon, RB3)

Construction workers get $12.82 to $27.19 per hour in Canada (PayScale). Even student workers (international students in Canada authorized to work) are paid at least $10.55 per hour, or P3,195.28 per day. Household workers get P3,744.24 daily in Toronto (Ontario Ministry of Labor).

Household Service Workers constitute the largest contingent of temporary (work) migrants in 2015 at, 194,835, a 7.5 percent increase from the total 181,224 deployed in 2014 (POEA Compendium of Statistics 2015).

While manufacturing laborers, cleaners, helpers in hotels, offices, plumbers and pipe fitters posted a decline in deployment, the nursing professionals exhibited a healthy 17.96 percent increase from 18,799 the year before last to 22,175 last year.

Historically and into the first year of the Duterte administration, wages and salaries pay by local employers (benefiting from FDIs and consumer spending fueled by remittances) are still no match to salaries paid by overseas employers to full-time or part-time workers (including students who are authorized to work). And the wage rates will remain basically the same even if the projected growth of 7.5 percent is achieved.

Choice destinations
Given a choice, the United States is the first among equals for permanent residency, followed closely by Canada, then Australia, Europe (the UK and Ireland included) and New Zealand. For temporary (work) migration, the Middle East remains on top of the deployment totem pole.

Last year, land-based OFWs in the Middle East outnumbered the rest, posting a 3.21 percent increase, from 885,541 to 913,958. All other destinations except the Trust Territories showed a reduction in numbers
migration20170109The United States and Canada representing 74 percent of deployed OFWs showed the biggest decline at 37.59 percent.

Decline in Americas
The reasons?
Not because there are no jobs available or slow growth but because of the existing migrant selection system (Express Entry in Canada) and the uncertainty of obtaining the temporary work visas in the US (the lottery-driven H-1B for professionals and tedious compliance requirements for the H-2B through a stringent, costly and drawn-out temporary labor certification process).

Despite the rosy projections of the business process outsourcing sector, President-elect Trump–until his swearing about two weeks from now–puts the call center jobs in tenterhooks. Just this week, the Donald warned Toyota of high tariff rates if the Japanese company sets up a Toyota manufacturing plant in Mexico. Earlier, he had Carrier and Ford acquiesce by saving and giving jobs to Americans instead of to foreign workers.

Could the new allies (and protectors – Russia and China) fill in the blanks?

China’s President Xi Jinping is sticking to his path of “new normal”–single-digit growth from a consumption-based economy than the double-digit growth fueled by investments and exports. This slow growth rate and reliance of the domestic populace to keep the growth steady does not augur well for the Philippines even as China has emerged as the Philippines’ second major commercial partner with $17 billion in total trade.

However, with controls on capital outflow by the Chinese government, FDIs from the Asian behemoth and conqueror of the South China Sea could stagnate, if not decrease–not sufficient to fill in the gap that the US and Canada had been providing until the Duterte administration’s pivot to Putin and Xi Jinping.

Could the 6,229 OFWs deployed to China in 2014 double in the years ahead? Before that, let’s move east to another communist geopolitical player, Russia.

President Duterte fist bumped with Rear Admiral Eduard Mikhailov from the visiting warship Admiral Tributs hoping that the new “ally and protector would come often.”

On deck, Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev pledged to “supply the Philippines with sophisticated weapons including aircraft and submarines” as Russia aims to become a close friend of the traditional US ally following its waltz away from the United States.

Should Russia’s affair with Europe–more military than trade–be a portent of things to come?

Russia’s relation to the European Union is tenuous at best, given the sanctions and counter-sanctions in the last two years dominated by the annexation of Crimea and the Ukraine and Aleppo conflicts.

While the Russian economy is struggling after being hit by oil prices decline and economic sanction, however, Putin remains popular, showing above 80 percent approval rating. Russia exports massive amounts of oil, gas, mineral and forest products but earnings are channeled to military spending as Putin continues to project its military might globally.

Apparently, Russians are willing to turn a blind eye on economic pain and suffering in exchange for geopolitical status. With the election of Trump and the ascension of a Putin-Donald tandem, Russians could see themselves again as co-equal of the United States instead of just an also-ran superpower.

What about Russian-Philippine trade and migration?

During the November 2016 APEC leaders’ meeting in Lima, Russia agreed to increase its imports of Philippine agricultural products – bananas and mangoes– from $46 million to $2.5 billion per year. In addition, the Duterte government is aggressively pursuing Russian tourists.

As for deployed workers, POEA reported 1,233 OFWS sent to Russia in 2014, 200 less than the previous year (1,433).

Compare the combined potential trade from Russia and China with the United States:

The US is “among the Philippines’ top trading partners, and it traditionally has been the Philippines’ largest foreign investor. US goods and services trade with the Philippines totaled $24 billion in 2012 (latest data available). Exports totaled $10.6 billion; imports totaled $13.3 billion. The US goods and services trade deficit with the Philippines was $862 million in 2013.” (Office of the US Trade Representative).

Migration destination
With the surge in oil prices, the Middle East should remain the top destination for OFWs. China and Russia may increase its trade volume with the Philippines, but language barriers and lack of familiarity with Russian and China recruitment and work-right compliance are huge barriers to a significant uptick in OFW deployment to the new “allies, partners and protectors.”

Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the US and the UK would continue to host the most number of permanent residents from the Philippines through various routes, especially the student-to-work-to-residence pathway.

The continued decline in OFW deployment to the four Commonwealth nations can be attributed to the current migrant selection which is points system-based: New Zealand has the Expression of Interest; Australia, SkillSelect; Canada, Express Entry; and the UK, the tier-based system (Tier 2 workers and Tier 4 students).

Except for the UK, applicants to Australia, Canada and New Zealand qualify by earning the maximum points based on the applicant’s age, English proficiency, education/qualification, experience and other bonus factors such as previous stay as student or worker as well as certain qualifying relationships or community support.

In the US, family sponsorship remains the main migration anchor, especially for the spouses, minor children of US citizens and lawful permanent residents (green card holders). But even family reunification could be tweeted out of its current quota by Donald Trump.

We shall revisit the migration destinations issue after Trump is sworn in and how Rody’s swearing progresses–or regresses.


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