About 200,000 of our workforce leave the country annually. And the top reason is unstable economic situation in the Philippines.
Many Filipinos could not see a “better future” here; thus, despite how difficult it is to be thousand miles apart from their family, they still opted to work abroad. According to Pinoy-ofw.com, “There is a longstanding lack of confidence in the government’s effort to secure a better future for its citizens.” The underlying causes for this are no longer new to us: “corruption, gross inefficiency in government functions, relatively high tax rate, and no sound fiscal policy.”
These depressing truths prompted me to become an OFW myself. I then became part of the estimated 200,000 Filipino workers who left last year. I migrated to the number one destination of OFWs, the Middle East, where 44% of Filipino workers can be found. I belonged to the 31,075 Bicolana OFWs (based on official records as of February 2013) who took the risk of living abroad because of the need to do so. I was one of the 13,570 women from Camarines Sur who recognized the “lack of local job opportunities and uncompetitive salary.” In my less than a year of working abroad, I have been exposed to the conditions of my fellow Filipinos and have understood what it is to be an OFW. I have witnessed and experienced some of their struggles and heard much of their stories. Thus, when I came back, I decided not to leave the Philippines anymore.
OFWs are not just accustomed to sacrifices; they epitomize the meaning of sacrifice. In a foreign land, they needed extra cautiousness in adjusting to people, weather conditions, work environment, and every situation. Language barriers and differences in culture and laws made them more vulnerable to danger and abuse. It was difficult to just turn to anyone for help. I met some OFWs whose salaries are equivalent to Php 8,000 and about Php 5,500 of this goes directly to accommodation, electric and water bills. And although they are only receiving that meager amount, they did not want to return home because they could not find work in the Philippines. What they do instead is maximize their time and energy during their days off by accommodating part-time jobs. That way, they are able to earn extra money to support their family’s needs. They just do not let their families know how they are keeping up abroad because they do not want them to worry. To the more or less 2.6 million OFWs and Overseas Contractual Workers, it is challenging to be happy everyday but they do their best to appear to be more than okay so people would think that they have a good life. In reality, they are struggling to survive.
According to Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, the number of OFWs is annually increasing at a steady rate. If only our government officials are REAL people, perhaps this ‘rate’ would greatly affect them that they will understand that our OFWs did not leave the country because they wanted to. Kailangan lang. They will not also allow themselves to be blinded by the positive effect of remittances toward the rate of our Gross Domestic Product. And consequently, they will stop exporting our workforce.
If only our government officials practice REAL service, they will provide the people with sufficient local job opportunities having decent compensation and benefits. They will also consider improving agriculture, which is still the backbone of our economy, and they will give higher importance on education and the country’s internal growth.
And if only our government officials emanate REAL leadership, they will not just say “our country will have a better future”, they will make it happen.Sources of figures: http://www.census.gov.ph I http://www.poea.gov.ph I http://www.pinoy-ofw.com I http://www.positivelyfilipino.com
KATE PANIS is a journalist, SEO content writer, and human rights advocate. She hails from Camarines Sur.