Filipinos consider Overseas Filipino Workers as their “Bagong Bayani” or new heroes; hardworking men and women working abroad and far from home to feed their families. Sadly, with all the sufferings that these people have to go through, it seems that they are the ones that need to be saved, and all the government can offer are short-term solutions to their plight. No one has ever solved the problem of the lack of well-paying jobs here in the Philippines so that Filipinos won’t have to go abroad just to find work.
In an article published by the Philippine Statistics Authority, there are currently 2.2 million OFWs since 2016. The Philippines owes much to these OFWs since their remittances and earnings help keep the economy afloat; having become too dependent to the point that the National Economic and Development Authority itself stated in 2012 that the country “cannot do without the cash remittances from OFWs.”
The rise of the OFWs can be traced back to the 70s, when President Ferdinand Marcos tried to solve the poverty problem in the Philippines by exporting workers abroad. When the Philippines suffered a recession in the 80s, the economy fell, jobs became scarcer and those who managed to find work earned very little. This continuing economic problem forced more and more Filipinos to work abroad until it became all too common. Since then, the number of OFWs kept rising and nothing is being done to stop it.
OFWs have to suffer from discriminations and abuses in the hands of other people. In Singapore, it is a common scene in their movies where Singaporean families would make fun of their foolish and illiterate Filipino maid. There was also an incident in 2013 where a Singaporean netizen by the name of Devina Devida insulted Miss World 2013 Megan Young and Filipinos in general, stating “What a joke those people cleaning our toilets won Miss World.” Others such as Saudi Arabia have a long history of OFW physical abuse, where a lot of Filipinos were imprisoned or executed for crimes they may or may not have committed. As long as our economy cripples from poverty, Filipinos will remain servants for foreign countries.
Another evidence of the unstoppable rise of overseas working can be seen in various universities and colleges in the country. In Eastern Visayas State University, for example, many engineering and architectural graduates choose to go and work abroad because of higher pay. Worse, the school and the government are encouraging these decisions, even offering and advertising the best countries where a graduate can find better work.
It is a great loss for the Philippines when its own professionals leave the country to work for others. As time goes on, the government continues sending more Filipino workers than create jobs in their own nation. Knowing that progress for the plight of OFWs is slow, let us ask: How long before Filipinos won’t have to go to other countries to work? How long before these OFWs can finally get home?