Most science, tech OFWs go to Middle East – study

Katherine Visconti
The Middle East is attracting the highest numbers of Filipino science and technology professionals

MANILA, Philippines – The Middle East employs the highest number of overseas Filipino professionals working in fields of science and technology, a study showed.

A research study by the Science Education Institute (SEI), the human resource and development arm of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) noted that — while the Middle East ranks as the top destination overall for overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in any sector — the region is the top destination of engineers, nurses, and other S&T professionals.

SEI’s research found that the top destinations for OFWs in Science and Technology (S&T) were:

  1. Saudi Arabia
  2. United Arab Emirates
  3. United States of America
  4. Singapore
  5. United Kingdom

Other top destinations for S&T OFWs include:

  • Kuwait
  • Qatar
  • Libya
  • Ireland 
  • Bahrain

Saudi Arabia

SEI found that Saudi Arabia, one of the wealthiest nations in the Middle East, employs on average 9,066 OFWs in S&T.

“In recent years (2006-2009), the number of Filipino S&T workers who migrated temporarily to Saudi Arabia is continuously increasing from
around 9,000 to more than 16,000, the highest volume in 12 years,” according to SEI Director Dr. Filma G. Brawner.

Brawner said majority of S&T OFWs who go to Saudi Arabia are

  • nursing and midwifery professionals
  • engineering and related professionals
  • health professionals
  • computing, life science, mathematicians, statisticians, physicists, chemists and related professionals


Another top destination of OFWs in the Middle East is United Arab Emirates. Of the S&T OFWs there: 

  • 45% are engineers
  • 42% are nurses


For United States, the study showed that, since 2001, the majority of S&T have been nurses and midwives, whereas previously the country was luring in computing professionals. 

Bittersweet numbers

“Our science professionals are highly marketable and are sought after by developed countries.  However, we cannot give them enough reason to stay in the country and help us shore up the research and development agenda of the Philippines,” said Brawner.

“The numbers we presented today contains a bittersweet truth about the S&T OFW landscape,” she added.

In 2011 the Department of Science and Technology found that the brain drain had worsened with S&T OFWs increasing by 148% from 9,877 in 1998 to 24,502 in 2009. 

Brawner explained that the outflow of science and technology workers has a negative impact on research and development, noting that the country is still trying to reach the critical mass of scientists and engineers prescribed by the United Nations. –