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Employment back home still the best

17 December 2018

By Josefina Pingkihan

The jolliest season is again approaching, and most overseas Filipino workers would again be wishing they were back home with their loved ones on this most celebrated event in our country. Indeed, even the most modern video-chatting could never replace the happiness that we experience when we are physically present to bask in the love of our families back home.

The feeling of loneliness experienced by most migrant workers could soon be amplified when China truly opens up its labor market to 10,000 household service workers from the Philippines. According to our Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, this was one of the takeouts from the recently concluded visit to Manila of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

More employment equals more income, as proved by the latest Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas report on remittances by Filipinos abroad. As of September this year, the total amount sent home by OFWs already amounted to a staggering US$23.713billion, an increase of 2.4 % from last year. This should be a good thing, according to analysts, but at what cost?

In exchange for the dollars sent home are the tears and sweat from millions of  OFWs who were forced to leave behind their families in search of greener pasture, only to find themselves trapped in the quagmire of the costs of migration. Broken families and estranged children often result from an OFW having to go away, while they themselves find themselves falling victims to abuse by their employers, debt bondage which often starts from the mounting cost of securing a job abroad, cultural shock…the list goes on.

We have been led to believe by the present government that there would be “changes” if we only stayed on course and remained patient. But three years since President Rodrigo Duterte took over, these promised changes never happened. In fact, if we are to say it fair and square, the economy has worsened considerably under his rule.

Instead of the promised relief from a robust economy, the country’s inflation rate shot up from just 1.3% in June 2016 to a whopping 5.7% in July this year. This happened back to back with a record low for the peso, which dropped to Php7 to HK$1 in the latter part of the third quarter of this year. Analysts say the Philippine peso has been the worst performing currency in Asia. Despite this, surveys show cash remittances fell to US$2.36billion in June 2018 from US$2.47billion in the same month last year.

Amid this doom-and-gloom scenario, it is not surprising that many Filipinos are scampering to work abroad to secure their family’s future. From a daily OFW deployment of just 4,000 a day during the previous administration, about 6,000 are now joining the daily exodus.

The government avers that more jobs are being created for Filipinos. But statistics show that the claim is not true, as there are now 11.1 million unemployed and underemployed Filipinos.

Why would anyone in their right minds decide to leave the country if they had good-paying jobs at home? The explanation is simple. It is not true that more jobs are opening up to Filipinos, despite claims that more foreign investors are coming in. Also whatever new jobs were created from these mostly Chinese foreign investments appear to have gone also to Chinese workers.

While our agriculture and fishing industries remain stagnant, the manufacturing sector boosted by foreign investments does not really contribute much to our economy as they come in only because of sweeteners or incentives.

Given these indicators, it is clear that the present administration has failed to deliver on its promise of genuine change to address the acute needs of the people, particularly the poor. Nearly three years on, and it is obvious that Dutertenomics or whatever the present administration wants its policy direction called, has failed miserably.

Migrant workers like us have simple needs, and we have made them amply clear from the migrants agenda we have drawn up even before the current president assumed office. We have relentlessly followed up on this, but have received no relief so far.

What we want to say is, yes, we need jobs, but jobs that would give us security and wages that would complement our socio-economic needs. The offered jobs in China, if true, could be a big help, particularly to many poor families in the Philippines, but these are not what we are hoping for. What we need are jobs that would not lead us away  our families. 
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Our contributor this issue is a long-time Filipino migrant worker who became known for leading Cordillera Alliance in Hong Kong, one of the oldest and most active OFW organizations around. Josie now spends a lot of time traveling between Hong Kong and China with her employer, giving her more time to hone her talent for writing.
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