'Return of OFW deployment to pre-COVID level shows lack of quality local jobs'

James Relativo - Philstar.com
'Return of OFW deployment to pre-COVID level shows lack of quality local jobs'
Passengers queue at the various gates of the NAIA Terminal 3 in Pasay City on October 29, 2022.
STAR / Miguel De Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — While the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) might be back to pre-pandemic levels according to the government, progressive group Migrante said that the data is not something to be proud of.

The group had this to say after Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) officer-in-charge Hands Leo Cacdac revealed last Thursday that around 2.5 million overseas employment certificates (OECs) and passes were issued to OFWs in 2023.

"It is yet another proof that after four years since COVID-19 hit the world, the Philippines continues to fail in creating decent jobs at home," said Migrante in a statement on Saturday.
"It shows that the country under the Bongbong Marcos regime is still not developing its manufacturing and agriculture sectors and is therefore unable to provide employment to Filipinos."

OECs are required for all departing OFWs. They also serve as an exit clearance and as an exemption from the payment of travel tax and airport terminal fee.

Latest government estimates around 1.96 million OFWs all around the world, an increase of 7.6% in the same period of 2021. 

It could be remembered that strict travel restrictions were earlier implemented by the government alongside lockdowns to prevent the transmission of the deadly COVID-19 virus.

"The 2.5 million overseas employment certificate (OEC) and passes issued by the government in 2023 translates to more than 6,800 Filipinos leaving the country each day," Migrante said.

"These figures only mean that the number of Filipinos who are forced to leave their families in the Philippines in order to find employment abroad continues to increase," it added.

Minimum wages in Metro Manila are currently pegged at P573 too P610 a day, the highest in the country. This is far from the "family living wage" of P1,188/day to support a family with five members. 

While technically free, some OFWs complain that OECs are uncluded in the documentation fees that they must pay at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

Reportedly, DMW's online applications for OECs are malfunctioning, purportedly compelling OFWs to visit Philippine embassies/consulates, leading to potential opportunities for various scams.

Illegal trafficking still a problem

Migrante expressed disappointment over the absence of acknowledgment regarding the rise in Filipinos falling victim to illegal recruitment and human trafficking.

Bureau of Immigration spokesperson Dana Sandoval earlier reported over 6,000 suspected victims of human trafficking and illegal recruitment in the first two months of 2023 alone.

The group was also worried about the shortening of accreditation proccess for foreign employers from 20 to 30 days to seven to 15 days, as it might "reduce the standards" for legitimate employers.

"The DMW and the Bongbong Marcos regime should seriously reconsider their uncritical celebration of the Philippine government’s labor export program," the group said. 

Latest figures from the state earlier observed a decrease in unemployment rate (4.2%) and increase in employment (95.8%). However, the quality of jobs available noticeably worsened with underemployment going up to 11.7%.

Militant groups and economic think tanks have continously identified genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization as key starting points to generate more jobs.

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