Cost of Labor Export

Reprint from GMA News:

A Filipino scholar in Canada recently assessed the “dark side” or negative effects of migration on Filipino families and the Philippines in general.

A report of “The Vancouver Sun” on Thursday said the Institute of Asian Research at the University of British Columbia (UBC) has been following immigrant labor markets in recent days on its “Asia Pacific Memo,” a collection of scholarly features on various topics.

The Vancouver Sun” said scholar Prod Laquian, a professor emeritus in human settlement planning, saw “definite dark clouds in Filipinos’ remittance generosity, which often sees even low-paid Filipino workers in Canada each sending home hundreds of dollars each month.”

Laquian said the export of workers has prevented the Philippines from advancing as a self-sustaining nation.

“The Central Bank of the Philippines announced recently that despite the global economic crisis, remittances from Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) would hit $20 billion by the end of 2011. This is seven per cent higher than in 2010 and raised foreign exchange reserves to $76 billion, resulting in a $9 billion surplus in the country’s balance of payments. What lies beneath the surface of such good news?” asked Laquian in the Asia Pacific Memo.

He noted that the Philippine government adopted the labor export program in 1974 as a stop-gap measure to ease unemployment and foreign exchange problems.

However, after 37 years, the Philippine economy has become heavily dependent on remittances, he said.

Almost ten million Filipinos are currently working overseas, mostly in North America, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Europe, he noted.

Downside costs

In the memo, Laquian said the downside costs receive less attention.

“They include abuse of OFWs, family breakdowns from long separations, and critical labour shortages in key industries and services,” he said.

“The desire to work abroad has negatively influenced educational aspirations – some Filipino doctors have taken up nursing to get overseas jobs,” he added.

Laquian stated that the most serious negative effect of Philippine labor export policies “has been the neglect of domestic production and poor investments in infrastructure, agriculture, mining, export promotion, and social development because of the easy availability of funds from remittances.”

“The country may be likened to a man who has become lazy because he receives remittances from a wife working as a domestic worker abroad,” Laquian said.

“For the government, the easy money from foreign remittances is a major cause of its inability to pursue sound economic development programs,” he added.

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