CONVERSATIONS: Is working abroad still the best option?
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines began to promote export labor policies in the mid-1970s under the Marcos administration. When oil prices started booming, the jobs started opening in oil producing countries.
It made perfect sense to go. Back home, we had the available laborers, but not enough jobs, or quality jobs enough for them to fill.
Then President Ferdinand Marcos, who was dealing with a frail economy, set up government systems to regulate and encourage Filipinos to work in other countries that offered higher paying jobs.
Going abroad, however, entailed a lot of sacrifice – it still does. It means leaving your kids behind in the care of relatives or friends, not watching your kids grow up, and dealing with sometimes unbearable conditions in unfamiliar lands.
Forty years have passed. Workers are still leaving, families are still separated, and work is still difficult to find in the home country.
There are bright spots, though. National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) chief Arsenio Balisacan said on April 29, he believes there may be an “appreciable downward trend” in poverty incidences in the country.
The Philippines exceeded its gross domestic product targets last year of hitting 6% to 7% and achieved 7.3% growth for 2013. A US-based consulting firm even named the cities of Manila and Jakarta as likely to become the next global leaders in business.
Yet according to recent reports, many FIlipinos remain jobless despite a high growth rate and stellar economic performance. The government says there are not enough jobs to absorb the growing labor force in addition to those who lost their jobs because of calamities. (READ: More Filipinos jobless despite high growth)
Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have been hailed as the bagong bayani (new heroes) of the Philippine economy for the sacrifices they have made for their families and for the country. But many of these "heroes" sacrifice for decades with little reward. Are their sacrifices being made in vain? Is sending workers abroad really a sustainable solution to keeping the Philippine economy alive? Is it time for change?
Share your thoughts in the live blog below, or Tweet us using #BalikBayan. Let’s discuss the future of overseas labor: