Sunday, April 3, 2011

Is This Trip Really Necessary?

The three Filipinos who were recently executed in China on drug trafficking charges and their OFW (overseas Filipino worker) counterparts who leave the Philippines to work abroad legitimately have one thing in common. They avail of opportunities (and risks) to make more money in jobs overseas than they could at home in order to benefit their families, especially  their children, even if means taking positions below their socioeconomic stations, such as teachers hiring out as maids and for stretches of time that may last months, even years and in which they are often are subjected to degrading and abusive working conditions, especially  in such countries as Saudi Arabia which has recently stopped accepting Filipino domestic helpers rather than comply with rules from the Philippine government intended to protect them.

Even when the Philippine government rescues and repatriates victimized OFWs, many of them turn around and take new positions in the countries where they were mistreated.  In war-torn Libya  where their very lives are in jeopardy, many Filipinos are staying on due to enticements such as double pay.  The bigger picture fact that if they wind up killed or disabled in such a dangerous environment, it will mean the end of providing for their families doesn't seem to enter their minds.

Importantly, however, the money that OFW's remit home contributes tremendously  to the Philippine economy as a whole, even to the point of propping it up. In 2010, this amount totaled almost $19 billion (which is well over half of a trillion pesos!). In anyone's book that is a chunk of change.

Considering the closeness of most Filipino families, for OFW's to leave their loved ones behind sounds like a  noble sacrifice. However a close examination of this phenomenon shows that the plight that causes them to take this step is really one of their own making and hence usually avoidable.  This is because couples here have children without taking the responsibility  to stop and think about what they are doing.  As a result they wind up with larger families than they can afford.   Behind this lack of family planning is pressure from the Catholic Church to reproduce as many children as possible, along with the fatalistic cultural trait of bahala na, which loosely translated means "God will provide" or "What will be will be".

The problem is that when families crunch the budget numbers, they usually find that God hasn't provided after all (nor has the Church), which means that one—or sometimes even both—of the parents will have to step up to the plate and seek employment overseas to make ends meet.  The frequent negative results of such separation are predictable even when the OFW faithfully remits funds back home:  Infidelity and desertion by one or both partners, discipline problems and resentment issues from the children, and recipients' eventual  over-dependence and misuse of the money provided by the absent family member.

Often those who leave their families behind to work abroad were themselves children of overseas Filipino workers and know full well  the emotional and psychological toll such separations entail. But they nevertheless repeat the pattern. Couldn't they see what was coming before they started having kids or did they deliberately ignore the inevitable consequences of their actions?

As for OFW's contribution to the national economy it is  their absence from the local workforce and their pumping of the previously mentioned trillions of pesos into the country  furnishes a crutch and perpetuates a system that allows the Philippine government to avoid dealing with root causes of poverty such as overpopulation and corruption, and to indefinitely defer taking meaningful steps to reform the Philippine economy into one that provides decent paying jobs locally for all workers so that no one would ever again have to leave the country to earn a living.


Kano said...

Hi Rick,

Sad story, indeed. Very emotional. There must be in a way always at the back of your mind, as you as an adult, the knowing that you are taking out of the Philippines a luggage that contains illegal stuff or at least something that you "must" declare at the other airport.

But, money talks in the Philippines, as it were only a few thousand pesos for many, many people, as many are paid meager wages compared to the western world.

When I was employed in Canada (Alberta - Oil capital of Canada), at the end of my career, I actually felt that I was paid too high for what I did. It was because, Calgary (in Alberta) is a boom city because of oil, and the state government is swimming in money. People's wages are fairly high there.


Secular Guy said...


I know that desperation can overrule common sense, but as can be seen the consequences of getting caught with contraband are enormous and should make any would be mule think twice about taking the risk.

I've heard about the wages in Alberta and that the prairie provinces actually welcome foreigners to settle there. Is that still the caes?

Kano said...

Hi Rick,

Yes, foreigners can settle there but one must meet certain criteria. The immigration department follows a point system before one can live in Canada as a permanent resident. I think, you need 75 points to be qualified. One looks at age, how good you are in English (or French in the French speaking provinces), education, work experience in Canada and in your own country, family in Canada, if you already have an employer, etc...)

The easiest for a Filipina to become a Canadian resident is to apply as a nanny. Employers prefer experiened Filipina nannies (from Hong Kong or Singapore, or other countries) over Canadian nannies, so they can show the Canadian Immigration that Canadian nannies are not that much available enough, so they can hire a Filipina nanny first. They can get their Canadian citizenship then in 3 years' time.

Also rich investors who can invest C$400,000 in an locked-in account in Canada for 5 years. That is sufficient to get them also a permanent resident visa and become a Canadian, also in 3 years' time.

I believe, US citizens can also live in Canada for 6 months in a calendar year, as Canadians can do the same. But, I'm not sure about that, but it would make sense.

One good thing is, if Canadians move to an other country and live there full-time, and do not have enough ties anymore in Canada for tax purposes, the Canadian govenment releases you from this liability. I believe, it's not the case if you are a US citizen who moves away to another country. Uncle Sam is always there.


Secular Guy said...


Thanks for the low-down. Very interesting criteria. The future looks pretty bleak for Americans, especially young people including recent college graduates. Maybe they should cast their eyes northward?