Saturday, April 19, 2008

Philippines: Migrants

Migration News. 2008. Philippines: Migrants. April. Vol 15. No 2.

The Philippines sent 1.1 million workers abroad in 2007, the same as in 2006, meaning that an average of 3,000 Filipinos a day left for foreign jobs. They included 810,000 land-based migrants and 264,000 sea-based migrants. Recruiters say that Filipino migrant workers account for 30 percent of the air passengers entering and leaving the Philippines.

Filipinos are about 28 percent of those manning the world's ships. Most seamen work on eight- to 10-month contracts, earning at least $1,100 a month. About 20 percent each are deployed on cruise ships and bulk carrier ships, followed by 13 percent each on container ships and tankers; most carry crews of 21, seven workers for each of three shifts.

The government reports migrant outflow data in several ways. About 312,000 land-based migrants, 38 percent, were going abroad for the first time; the other 498,000 were rehires who had been employed abroad before. About half of those being deployed for the first time were classified as service workers, a third were production workers, and an eighth were professional and technical workers.

The leading destination for Filipinos leaving in 2007 was Saudi Arabia, which took almost 30 percent of Filipino migrants, followed by Hong Kong, 15 percent; UAE, 11 percent; and Italy and Singapore, seven percent each. Remittances were $13 billion in 2007, up slightly from 2006.

Some 8,000 nurses went abroad in 2007, including 6,100 to Saudi Arabia. The Philippines Health Secretary, Francisco Duque, estimated in January 2008 that 85 percent of the newly graduated nurses leave the country each year. Most go to the oil-exporting countries of the Middle East, but many want to go to Europe or North America, including some doctors and MBA graduates who are retraining as nurses in order to improve their chances of going abroad.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has since 1982 promoted and regulated the deployment of Filipino workers abroad; since 1987, the POEA has regulated the activities of recruiters. Over 3,000 workers a day visit POEA offices, including regional centers in the three major parts of the country, La Union in Luzon in the north, Cebu in Visayas in the center, and Davao for the Mindanao region in the south.

Recruiters who place Filipinos in jobs abroad must obtain licenses from the POEA and limit their charges to one month's salary in the country of destination (except in countries that prohibit such charges). They must also ensure that migrants have been found medically fit by government clinics and had their skills were tested in government training centers. Contracts submitted to the POEA for approval must pay at least the minimum wage of the destination country (if it has one) and provide free transportation and food or appropriate payments.

The POEA deals with complaints from Filipinos about recruiters and foreign employers. Filipino recruiters are jointly liable with foreign employers for violations of the contracts that migrants have when they leave Manila.

In April 2008, the POEA warned migrants about overcharges for jobs in Taiwan. Most Filipino migrants earn $NT17,280 ($565) a month in Taiwan, which should limit placement fees to $565. However, migrants were reporting fees of over $3,000, which they paid by writing post-dated checks to recruiters or having extra fees deducted from their Taiwanese wages. In order to avoid high brokerage fees, the governments of Taiwan and the Philippines are trying to encourage employers and workers to bypass agents, but only 600 Filipino migrants were hired directly in 2007.

The POEA runs ongoing campaigns against illegal recruitment, which can include overcharging migrants, charging migrants for nonexistent foreign jobs, or changing wages and terms once the migrant is abroad. The POEA reported 316 cases of illegal recruitment activities in 2006, up from 250 in 2005. Between January and October 2007, POEA reported 132 recruiters illegally involved with 850 migrants. The most common violation appears to be taking money from potential migrants and then not placing them in foreign jobs. However, many such complaints are dropped when the recruiter finds the migrant a foreign job.

The POEA instituted a $400 minimum monthly wage for domestic helpers in 2007; these so-called "supermaids" receive training before their departure. One result was a sharp drop in the number of domestic helpers sent abroad in 2007, 39,700, down from 91,400 in 2006. It is clear that some Hong Kong households have switched to cheaper Indonesian maids, but it is not clear if some Filipina maids are leaving with contracts that falsely label them something else.

The Philippines has 85 million residents, and is projected to have 94 million by 2010.

The price of rice and many other staple foods has risen sharply, prompting protests. In March 2008, the government condemned rice traders for hoarding subsidized rice that they hope to sell later at higher prices. The Philippines used to be the major rice exporter in Asia, and is now the leading importer in the region, importing about 10 percent of its rice. Rice, the staple food of almost half the world's people, doubled in price between January 2007 and March 2008. Only seven percent of the world's rice is traded; far more of the world's wheat and corn are traded.