Top residency destinations for foreign workers, OFWs to year 2020

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CRISPIN R. ARANDA

BEFORE our sun ceases to rise from the East and set in the West, oil from the ground (or sand) would have been depleted.

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Alternative sources of energy then could have replaced the liquid black gold abundant in the Middle East and the West. In any case, the types of skilled workers and professionals needed by the energy-producing countries would have changed as well.

Given the pace of automation, skilled workers doing repetitive work would lose their jobs unless they learn the new skills required by a much-digitized industry.

Opportunities expire. Unless foreign workers, expatriates and our own OFWs find a way to stop growing old, their chances of getting permanently settled (and enjoy a better quality of life with their families) in a country offering residency programs will vanish with the sandstorms.

In the last 10 years, the pace of overseas deployment of OFWs retained its upward trend. Each administration delivered a twin promise of preparing a hospitable economy and work opportunities for OFWs returning permanently, while pledging to protect their rights and welfare. Did not happen.

What remained steadfast was the continued deployment overseas because the promised good-paying jobs in the Philippines did not materialize despite state of the nation addresses from one President and administration to the next.

Change did come, though.

The Middle East exploded in ethnic fury as borders disappear and age-old claims of land ownership came to the fore. Oil dropped in price even as terrorism shot up. Refugees–-significant numbers of whom came from Muslim countries–-revived the latent fear of Islamic jihadists spawned by the Twin Tower bombing, followed by organized and lone wolf attacks in Europe and even the United States.

Only a few male billionaires (Oxfam reported just eight super-wealthy individuals, all of them attending the World Economic Forum in Davos last week) “own as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population,” a confirmation of a divide between the haves and the have-nots.

Of the eight billionaires literally owning the world, the just-sworn-in 45th President of the United States is not among them – sad. Lost in Trump’s lament that for many decades America has “enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry” is the fact that majority of the world’s eight wealthiest are either Americans or in the United States.

But President Donald Trump captured the White House by demanding change, and reiterated the blame rhetoric that became campaign mantra: “Washington flourished but the people did not share its wealth.”

Trump’s tremulous ascent to the White House changed the political landscape, leaving conventional pundits in the rubble.

The United States has not been on the top 10 list of countries where OFWs are deployed–by choice of otherwise.

But almost half of Overseas Filipino remittances come from the US ($10.37 billion) compared to a paltry $2.52 billion from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, according to Central Bank statistics.

But the now-Trump Terrain accepts at least a million permanent residents yearly, more than the legal immigrants admitted into Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and Europe.

That, Candidate Trump said, cannot continue, ranting at the “rapists, criminals from Mexico.” Now President Trump officially said America will “bring back its borders.”

If Trump seeks to remain in office after being sworn in as the most unpopular elected US President in recent history, where could OFWs find the welcome sign, refuge and residency?

The three countries accepting skilled workers and professionals based on their age, education, experience and English or language proficiency are Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The UK was part of the PR-destination quarter but the Brexit vote has left the immigrant-friendly nations to just three. Immigrant in this sense is defined as applicants meeting the requirements for legal and permanent residency whether applying on or offshore.

Australia’s list of occupations

This continent in Oceania is the closest to home. Australia has a list of Skilled Occupations, including professionals, managers and tradespersons. In addition, each state or territory (Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia and Victoria) has its own and separate list of occupations in demand called the Consolidated Skilled Occupations List. For the updated list, click on this link or copy, and then paste this link to your browser – https://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Work/Work/Skills-assessment-and-assessing-authorities/skilled-occupations-lists/CSOL

Occupation ceilings for the 2016-2017 program year

Each occupation has a ceiling or limit within a program year. For 2016-2017, the table below shows the occupation ceilings for the 2016-2017. The most occupations in demand are those in specific trades (OFWs from the Middle East would have the advantage of having worked in an international setting).
For example, out of the total target of 5,597 motor mechanics, only 111 applications have been received and approved; structural steel and welding trades workers, only 39 of the4,466 allocation; metal fitters and machinists, just 60 of the 6,677 target. For the ceiling or target number of occupations for the 2016-2017 program year, log on to this official link of the Australian government – https://www.border.gov.au/Busi/Empl/skillselect

Canada immigration targets

On October 31, 2016, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada released details of its 2017 Immigration Levels Plan, targeting up to 320,000 permanent residents.

New Zealand essential skills in demand

The other Oceanian nation–New Zealand–also has a list of occupations that the country needs, especially in the South Island where construction is a recurring and increasing sector needing skilled workers because of the frequent earthquakes, specifically in Christchurch.

The Approved Job orders section of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) on January 18, 2016 confirms this need at the POEA website http://poea.gov.ph/cgi-bin/CtyJobsResult.asp.

Occupations considered “Open” meaning no set limit at the time, include plaster board installer, plasterer fibrous and specialist interior fit-out.

As we have emphasized in previous columns, job offers from employers must go through the Philippine Overseas Labor Office accreditation process, then registration as employer-principal by a licensed recruitment agency at the POEA. And employers (or their appointed licensed agency recruiters) are not authorized to charge placement fees.

A valid job offer from a qualified employer virtually assures an invitation to apply for permanent residency through the Expression of Interest selection system. And New Zealand has the most liberal age limit/criteria – 55 years.

A skilled worker aged 45 will no longer get points towards residency in Australia or Canada. However, each of the two countries has other migration routes for the over-45 year old skilled worker or professional.

Migration programs do not change overnight. But they do change over time, in some cases in short time intervals.

Canada, for example, changed the point allocation for job offers from 600 to a low of 50 (for non-managerial positions); New Zealand has added 20 points to the previous 140-point total for applicants to be invited to apply for residency. Several states and territories of Australia have closed their nomination schemes earlier changing the types of skills they need.

Stanley Tucci’s character in the movie “Burlesque” warned Jack (played by Cam Gigandet) who had an eye on Ali Rose (Christina Aguilera) to express his interest or lose Rose because opportunities have expiration dates.
Much earlier, Heraclitus warned procrastinators that the only thing constant is change.

To our OFWs, change your outlook and act – now.

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