Sunday, April 21, 2019

Sun.Star essay: Connecting in remittances

AS ANOTHER year begins, the count continues of the growing number of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) missing home in their jobs but happy to be able to earn more for the family, especially the female workers, in particular Female Domestic Helpers (FDH) in Hong Kong and Female Domestic Workers (FDW) anywhere else outside the home country.

I watched the Ryzza Mae Show over GMA TV some days ago where the eight-year-old entertainer and TV host interviewed 30-year-old Matet de Leon (Nora Aunor’s adopted daughter). As when Ryzza’s guests sing or dance with her, the two in this particular edition of the show acted out a quick scene to display Matet’s acting skill (although she’s not active in the movies anymore), which is part of Ryzza’s show as host and Matet as guest.

The scene showed little Ryzza as the overseas female mother and Matet as her big baby girl. The big child (Matet) was crying, saying she didn’t want to let the little mother (Ryzza) leave to work in another country. “Huwag kang alis, Inay!” cried Matet.

The audience recognized the scene, even as they are familiar with the news of more mothers day by day leaving the home country to work for a bigger pay in sparkling dollars hundreds of miles away. Those who personally watched the show, or over the television, know what OFW is all about. Someone in the family is out there--siblings, sons, daughters, wives, husbands, or relatives of OFWs.

This is a simple scene of what is now familiar since 1972 when the Philippine government encouraged Filipino workers to find jobs outside the country as a “temporary” solution for a nation in an unwanted economic situation. Filipinos got hired soon enough, especially since they could connect easily with employers and co-employees. The Filipino can speak English better than most workers from the rest of Southeast Asia. The Filipino culture on the freedom of women also allows them independence in work outside the home country.

Listen to a couple of very familiar stories of female overseas workers:

A former elementary teacher said she left her family when her youngest child was two years old. Carmencita Cepeda, widow, left the upbringing of her children to her grandparents. She first came back home for a visit after two years of working as a nanny in Canada and saw painful changes in her family. The youngest child, who was two years old when the mother left, did not recognize her. The older kids were “cold and distant.”

Melanie Torres, a Filipino caregiver in Bahrain, came home after working in another country, anxious to see her family. She saw a nine-year-old boyish-looking girl waiting for her, spouting. Neither was the youngest four-year-old girl smiling.

There are also stories of disconnection of marriages in the matter of distance, the wife or husband living a different life away from home.

Despite the family connection problems of the workers, reports of the remittance increase are almost always in the news on OFW remittances. In the past 10 years, the increase of families dependent on remittances from overseas workers ranged from 34 to 53 percent of the population.   

Can you imagine 4,500 Filipinos daily leaving the country to work in any one of about 30 other countries? Some 10 up to 11 percent of the total Philippine population work abroad. The Bangko Sentral Pilipinas says “The steady deployment of OF workers remained one of the key drivers of the growth in remittance flows.”

But the home country is also running out of skilled workers, which is another problem. It is one of the world’s biggest exporters of labor, but now running out of the skilled type? The government could allow the entry of foreign workers for jobs needing skill even while the Department of Labor and Employment works out ways to help the Commission on Higher Education attract more local workers to train on the skills needed and work in the home country.

This is an issue to look over.

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