The World Bank has commended the Philippines’ support system for its overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) as a model for other Southeast Asian countries, and as a vehicle for regional economic integration.
This is significant and far-reaching.
It proves that our government is doing the right thing in pressing forward with the bold and far-sighted program that began under the government of President Ferdinand Marcos during the 1970s.
It proves that our achievement of having some 10 million Filipinos in productive employment abroad did not come by accident. Filipino overseas workers contribute over $26 billion annually in remittances to the economy, and account for 9.8 percent of our gross domestic product (GDP).
It proves that we have worked effectively in building the institutional mechanism and processes to attend to the welfare and protection of our OFWs.
The World Bank extolled the Philippines’ support system for migrant labor in its recent “Migrating to Opportunity” report. The Washington-based multilateral lender said the Philippines has a migration system with clearly defined institutional responsibilities.
WB said in the report: “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.”
The bank noted further 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.
It is in this broad context that the WB commends the Philippine example as a good model for other Southeast Asian countries and as a vehicle for regional integration.
Southeast Asia, the WB 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.
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 five percent of jobs in the region.
Overall, the WB noted that migration procedures across Asean remain 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 workers’ employment options and their welfare.
The Philippines is not content to sit on its well- earned achievements in the management of labor migration. The government of President Rodrigo Duterte aims ambitiously to repatriate nearly all Filipinos who work abroad today. It aims to create some 12 million jobs during its term.
It has also set in motion the creation of a bank to service the needs of overseas workers and their families.
In sum, we have a dynamic and effective program for labor migration, and a government that builds on a commendable legacy.