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Mayday for Philippines modern heroes?
Overseas Filipino workers are losing their jobs because of the recent economic slowdown. Will they continue being their country’s “modern heroes”?
December 11, 2008 10:43 by Dana El Baltaji
Around 1,200 Filipinos have lost their overseas jobs this year and as many as 50,000 more may be laid off next year as the global recession cuts demand for workers in Asia and elsewhere, the Philippines labor secretary Marianito Roque told Bloomberg recently.
That’s not very heartening news for an economy that is particularly dependent on foreign remittances, and calls its foreign workers “modern heroes.” Around 1.08 million Filipino workers immigrated last year, according to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA); money sent home from abroad accounts for 11.6 percent of the Philippine economy. Worldwide remittances in 2007 reached $14.4 billion, 13.2 percent higher than 2006. The largest remittances come from US, followed by Saudi Arabia.
While the US employs the largest number of overseas Filipinio workers (OFW’s), the Middle East comes next. In 2007, the number of OFWs in the region stood at more than 2.1 million.
According to the POEA, the Middle East also accounted for 45 percent of the total number of hires and re-hires of OFWs in 2007, the largest in the world. The number indicated a 5.5 percent increase over 2006.
Saudi Arabia topped the list, followed by the UAE. Qatar and Kuwait also came within the top ten destinations for OFWs.
That being the case, the region will play an important role in determining the future of the “modern heroes.” According to the the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines), money sent home by UAE-based Filipinos through banks was $502.1 million in 2007. That was 32.9 per cent higher than the previous year.
Most of the countries in the region have already starting hiring less domestic helpers from the Philippines; Saudi hired just 2,581 helpers in 2007, as compared to 11,898 in 2006, a decline of more than 78 percent. In the UAE, the rate fell by 73 percent, and in Qatar it fell by 70 percent.
According to the report, the Philippine government’s salary regulations have also made Filipinos more expensive compared with workers from India and elsewhere; for instance, Filipinos working as construction laborers in Saudi Arabia have a minimum salary of $250 a month, compared with as little as $110 a month for other nationalities.
While the Philippines is not the only country affected by the credit crunch, the island nation may have to take some steps, like alter its salary regulations, to help its heroes battle the crisis successfully.-AN