A generation hence: Filipino workers still can’t shake off itch to migrate

 

Overseas work’s lure continues to tease the employed and unemployed here. Some fall for it even as some still find joy working here at home.

 

MANILA—A brief downpour at Luneta Park on Philippine Independence Day did not stop trooping Filipino workers from seeking jobs that can free them from less gainful incomes, short-term work and unemployment.

A scene from the 2014 Kalayaan Job Fair last June 12 at Luneta Park where over-35,000 jobs locally and overseas were on hand. (photo by the Philippine Information Agency-National Capital Region)

A scene from the 2014 Kalayaan Job Fair last June 12 at Luneta Park where over-35,000 jobs locally and overseas were on hand. (photo by the Philippine Information Agency-National Capital Region)

About a hundred-plus employers and recruiters facilitated these workers’ desires in this annual job fair that the country’s labor department and the private sector lay out annually. What the booths at Luneta offered were an estimated 8,949 local jobs, 11,498 government jobs, and some 15,000-21,000 overseas vacancies.

So with foreign job openings dwarfing the number of local vacancies in this job fair, a country still can’t fend off an itch —overseas migration—that is workers’ and a national labor force’s buffer for local employment constraints.

Or income constraints, as 31-year-old Erik Serioso admitted. This avid attendee of the annual Luneta Park job fairs got lucky early on (he was two hours early –6 a.m. to be exact– from entering into the job fair’s premises). Serioso was hired on-the-spot as a warehouse assistant at around 9 a.m.

That work is fine, he tells The Filipino Connection. Yet another booth gave the red-shirted, backpack-toting Serioso a juicier catch: work in Taiwan.  By around 10 a.m., Serioso suddenly got himself torn.

While the Philippines marked 116 years of independence from Spanish colonial rule, the country also marked the 40th year of a labor migration “policy” that the 1974 Labor Code of the Philippines mandated. That Code bared provisions on regulating overseas recruitment.

Years and decades followed, and batches of labor officials have flagged off accusations the Philippines sends labor as a matter of development policy. On the background, government has the migration management bureaucracy that helps ensure safe, orderly overseas mobility.

A generation hence, and with over-US$150 billion in remittances that a millions-strong Filipino population had plowed back to the country from 1975 to 2013, the Philippines remains flooded with overseas job offers —across all skills.

Migration analysts and economists have long remarked that overseas employment has been easing the country’s domestic employment constraints, such as an unemployment rate that remains among the highest in Asia (even amid the past four years of stellar Philippine economic growth); a rising number of underemployed workers; and a conundrum that macro-economic growth has not produced as much jobs.

“The celebration of the nation’s independence is a timely occasion for the DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) to facilitate the employment of the jobless and, thus, free them the scourge of unemployment,” said Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz in a statement to the country’s workers who still can’t free themselves from the tease of overseas work as Filipino families’ obvious economic resort.

At the Luneta job fair, look at who were being hunted: nurses, medical technologists, laboratory technicians, physical therapists, dentists, accountants, architects, engineers, construction workers, heavy contractor operators, drivers, mechanics and welders. Side-by-side these overseas job vacancies were local vacancies in sectors such as cyber services, construction, hotel and restaurant / tourism, automotive, health and wellness, real estate, banking, finance, insurance, and cargo, and wholesale and retail trade.

Erik Serioso got lucky at the recent Luneta Park Job Fair on Philippine freedom day. He got hired by two empolyers: one local and another overseas. What did Serioso choose at the end? The answer was obvious. (Photo by Anjeanette Manuel / The Filipino Connection)

Erik Serioso got lucky at the recent Luneta Park Job Fair on Philippine freedom day. He got hired by two empolyers: one local and another overseas. What did Serioso choose at the end? The answer was obvious. (Photo by Anjeanette Manuel / The Filipino Connection)

Teased by both local and overseas job offers, Serioso did not formally say yes to warehouse assistant job offer as the Taiwan job offer stood by, waiting. By noontime, the final answer to the teasing unto him was clear: “working abroad means getting (a) bigger salary.”

By 1:33 p.m., some 122 applicants have already been directly hired, making their Luneta sortie worth it. Headhunters manning the job booths screamed for workers. Workers’ ears were awaiting what a megaphone voice was to bark next: who will be the next lucky jobseeker to be hired right away? Some names were called, as well as names of countries —Canada and the United Arab Emirates— that signify the names called may be ready to board the jet plane.

But some workers weren’t ready for that plane ride and still think livelihood here is a joyous ride. Like Nila Calagui, 24.

Another lucky job applicant at the Luneta Park Job Fair was 24-year-old Nila Calagui.  Chants from overseas recruiters teased her byt Calagui, in the end, got good news: a job for pharmaceutical chain Watson's. (Photo by Anjeanette Manuel / The Filipino Connection)

Another lucky job applicant at the Luneta Park Job Fair was 24-year-old Nila Calagui. Chants from overseas recruiters teased her byt Calagui, in the end, got good news: a job for pharmaceutical chain Watson’s. (Photo by Anjeanette Manuel / The Filipino Connection)

That day at Luneta, Calagui can’t get any luckier. This first-time job fair attendee got hired as a sales clerk for top pharmaceutical chain Watson’s by not just one but two employment agencies. In the end, she was a winner: Calagui took the job.

Joy then followed. “I can’t imagine being hired twice in one day,” said a teary-eyed Calagui. “Now I have good news to tell my husband and my three-year-old son.”  —Jeremaiah M. Opiniano contributed reporting

 

 

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