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The Philippine Government Needs to Create Jobs at Home
The complex issue of having to work abroad for lack of opportunities at home can be addressed if the Philippine government is serious about job creation.
Remittances in cash by the overseas Filipino workers in 2017 reached its highest at about $28 billion. In January this year, the Philippines' central bank reported a $2.3 billion worth of remittances, a 9.7 percent increase from last year’s $2.1 billion of the same month.
An estimated 2.2 million Filipinos work overseas, out of which 85 percent work in Asia. Saudi Arabia remains a major host country receiving 23 percent of migrant workers, most of them household helps.
Looking at the figures, it is easy to see the big picture. Remittances from migrant workers are a key contributor to the Philippine economy.
But what is overlooked is the human side of the story. Not only of Gemma Madera Damuran, but of all those who suffered starvation, rape, violence and abuse at the hands of their employers. Her case is not isolated; a domestic help was killed in Hong Kong, a domestic help was raped in Kuwait, a domestic help was abused and starved in Saudi Arabia, and so on.
Back in the Philippines, their families are incomplete, and overseas workers are looked at as heroes, as saviours. Poverty and lack of jobs at home forced the Filipinos to seek greener pastures elsewhere.
Should this be necessary given the Philippines is a rising economy in Southeast Asia? The answer is complex. Job creation is the Philippine government’s Waterloo since the Marcos years. It was Marcos' regime that first sent Filipino workers to Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. At that time it was a smart move, because there were few jobs available at home.
The Philippines sent out skilled workers and professionals with a promise of higher pay, prompting a brain drain in their homeland. Through the years, several batches of workers left the country, and most are classified domestic and elementary workers.
Today, Filipinos leave the country by the thousands in a month seeking higher income. The cost of living in the country is getting higher due to the soaring inflation rate. Plus, the government’s new tax policy causing the increase in the prices of consumer goods, a tax system that favours the rich, but burden the poor.
The government could be more creative in providing the people jobs at home than creating ways for the jobless to go abroad seeking an employment that pays decent wages. If folks in the government and politicians care about votes and power, doing something for the welfare of the people makes them look good.
Pass job creation measures, increase the basic pay of workers to a humane level and lower taxes for the consumer goods -- these make them appear favourable to the people. Not so much on public relations and image building, but in genuine public service.
It is easier said than done, as the cliché goes, but politicians are elected into office to serve the interests of the public, not their own political interests. Sadly, there’s only one thing that’s constant in politics everywhere: personal interests.
The Filipino domestic worker said she had sought from her employment agency, but it claimed not to know who she was