ESSAY: Overseas Filipino workers bear debts as crisis hits labor-importing economies

Under Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) regulations, OFWs who did not finish their contracts can file for some claims to their recruitment agencies. Manila-based recruitment agency Grand Placement and General Services Corp. brokered Yambao and his five co-workers for the Taiwan jobs.

We haven’t paid yet the Taiwanese lender since we’re still jobless, Yambao said in a short message via mobile phone.

In the meantime, Yambao said they feel immobile.

We went to Manila to check out that recruiter claiming he’s not requiring payment of placement fees, he added.

Other than that, he said they’re staying put in their respective homes in the provinces.

Caytiles, for one, has gone back to his farm in Sibalom, Antique, southern Philippines.

Slo-mo

IF the Ramones band was known for its blitzkrieg hit songs, Caytiles notes government support to displaced OFWs like him is like a slow-motion dance.

Deputy administrator Hans Leo Cacdac of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration said Caytiles’s and Yambao’s cases require having these “heard through conciliation proceedings” so that some placement fees can be recovered.

Another government employee said displaced workers like Caytiles and Yambao can apply for public training grants on entrepreneurship and livelihood loans for small businesses.

It is a package totaling 60,000 pesos ($1,250 at US$1=P48), explains Teresita Manzala of the DOLE’s National Reintegration Center for OFWs.

“We need to repay our debt quickly,” Yambao said adding that meeting the documentary requirements of OWWA only “means additional expenses for us.”

The labor department’s Bureau of Local Employment said it is trying to find companies that may have vacancies in the domestic market.

Government’s Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, on the other hand, said it will train displaced local and overseas workers on identified lines of businesses, as well as retraining workers on certain skills.

The labor department’s online job search websites, meanwhile, reports 753,719 overseas job orders needing to be filled while local job openings run to 46,300 as of end-January this year.

Looking at the end-October 2008 data of the quarterly Labor Force Survey, the Philippines generated some 861,000 local jobs last year; the government deployed 1,376,823 newly-hired and re-hired overseas workers in 2008.

Amid the global economic crisis, the Philippines had a record-low 6.8 percent unemployment rate in 2008, as well as a record-high 34.533 million employed Filipino workers that same year

Since 2005, the government’s statisticians included overseas Filipino workers as among the “employed” in the Philippine labor force as mandated by the International Labor Organization. But since that time, the number of local jobs generated cannot outpace annually-rising overseas employment numbers.

In a presentation to business journalists last March, Labor Undersecretary Rosalinda D. Baldoz said of the total 6,406 displaced workers as of March 12, 2009, 4,197 reported Taiwan as host country while 1,357 came from the United Arab Emirates.

However, reports of local workers retrenched daily have gone down by 40 from 437 during the first week of March to only 397 as of March 16, 2009.

From October last year to March 16, 2009, Baldoz said a total of 109,529 workers were affected by the global economic crunch. Nearly 11 percent of this number or 11,574 workers were permanently displaced (10.6%) while 38,806 reported to be temporarily laid- off (35.4%). A greater number or 59,149 were reported to be in flexible work arrangements.

The World Bank paints grim pictures in its latest update on the effects of the global slowdown.

“As unemployment in the region and around the world begins to climb, migrant workers, wherever they are, are likely to be among the first to lose their jobs,” the report titled Battling the forces of global recession said.

“This will mean lower remittance flows to the poorest countries in the region and, if the migrants return home, a worsening unemployment in those countries as well as further downward pressure on real wages, especially in the informal sector that would directly affect the poor,” added the report, released early April. (OFW Journalism Consortium)

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