Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 2, Number 50 January 26 - February 1, 2003 Quezon City, Philippines
Profits from the Brain Drain?
When caregivers, nurses and other professionals begin sending dollar remittances to the Philippines, nobody can be happier than the Philippine government and banks which aggressively devise ways to have these remittances filling up their coffers.
A nurse or other professional in the Philippines intent on becoming a nurse or a caregiver as a stepping stone toward migration either in the U.S., Canada, or Europe must spend more than P100,000. And that’s just initial.
the amount will go to the job placement agency, while the rest will be divided
for air fare, embassy interview, medical expenses, as well as technical courses
and tests either for a caregiver or a nurse.
most Filipinos don’t mind the expenses as long as they are guaranteed
immediate employment abroad, it is also true that certain sectors of the
economy, both in the sending and receiving country, are able to get a killing
out of the migration of Filipino professionals.
when these professionals begin sending dollar remittances to the Philippines,
nobody can be happier than the Philippine government and banks that aggressively
devise ways to have these remittances filling up their coffers.
of the economy
total cumulative migration of Filipinos estimated at 10 million, and with an
estimated 2,700 Filipinos leaving daily to work abroad, the yearly dollar
remittances of migrant workers have grown from $5.74 billion in 1997 to $6
billion last year. In 1998, it reached $7.38 billion, data from Bangko Sentral
ng Pilipinas (BSP – Central Bank of the Philippines) shows.
year, the dollar remittances of overseas Filipinos are projected to go even
higher. As of June, dollar remittances of Filipinos abroad were already pegged
at $4.14 billion, $1.25 billion higher than the $2.89 billion recorded in June
1990 to 2001, Filipino migrants remitted a total of $50 billion through the
formal banking system. Between 1990 and 2000, remittances made up 5.2 percent of
the country’s gross national product.
sheer magnitude of the official dollar remittances of migrant Filipinos, says
IBON Foundation research director Antonio Tujan Jr., has somewhat ended the
country’s severe Balance of Payments (BoP) crisis of the 1980s. This is not
yet even including remittances that were not sent through banks which the BSP
estimated in 1996 to be about 58 percent of total remittances.
questioning the government policy in including dollar remittances to the current
account of the country’s BoP, the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrant Filipinos (APMMF)
admits that dollar remittances have helped facilitate and finance trade.
remittances to short-term capital trade financing, the APMMF, in a primer The
Role and Process of Remittances in the Labor Export Industry in the Philippines,
says recorded earnings in the BoP (through remittances) “cushioned the impacts
of deficits in the trade balance and non-merchandise trade balance.”
of trade data shows that (overseas) workers’ earnings do finance imports by as
much as 80 percent of remittances through formal channels,” notes the APMMF
it adds that remittances find their way into the government’s Gross
International Reserves (GIR). In May 1998, cites the primer, the BSP’s GIR
stood at $10.9 billion, 24 percent higher than the year ago level, largely on
account of remittances which increased by 0.6 percent from January to March in
the same year.
Jr. contends that dollar remittances also help the national government finance
the country’s debt service, which averages at $5 billion annually.
the significant contribution to the economy of migrant Filipinos, the Philippine
government has time and again praised them as “modern day heroes.” Indeed,
their dollar remittances are able to save an otherwise cascading economy in more
ways than one.
a micro-economic level, the APMMF primer adds, remittances also buoy the
domestic economy via expenditures, real assets acquired and small businesses set
researches by two La Salle University professors seem to indicate a skewed if
not altogether negligent contribution to the ground economy of overseas
of the researchers, Prof. Stella Go, says that instead of spreading the economic
benefits of labor migration, labor exportation “appears to have contributed
instead to the long existing problem of inequality in Philippine society.”
a Manila forum last November, Go cited Family Income and Expenditure surveys in
the last decade which show that a larger proportion of families in the rich
regions of the country reported income from abroad as major source of income.
Most of these families are urban families.
wealthier the families, the greater the likelihood that their main source of
income comes from foreign exchange remittances,” Go says.
findings were shared by Tereso Tullao, who expressed apprehension that the
country may in fact be losing out, in terms of opportunity costs, to the brain
drain accompanying labor migration.
says: “The loss of educated manpower through brain drain, the various social
ills resulting from overseas employment may not be fully compensated by the
foreign exchange remittances brought into the economy.”
denying that a labor export policy is in place, the Philippine government cannot
deny that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) already play a major role in the
economy. And it is by and large the result of three decades of aggressively
marketing Philippine labor abroad that started during the Marcos dictatorship.
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came as close to admitting this policy when she advised
an OFW in a televised telephone conversation to stay and find work abroad.
here are difficult to find and we are depending on the people outside the
country. If you can find work there, and send money to your relatives here, then
perhaps you should stay there,” Arroyo said recently.
words to that OFW, says the APMMF, are an indirect admission that the government
indeed has a labor export policy.
APMMF and Tujan cite as proof to this policy the role played by the Philippine
Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
order that the dollar flow (of remittances) remains unimpeded,” APMMF notes,
the Philippine government has designated the POEA and its labor attaches abroad
“to actively market” Philippine labor export.
on the other hand, says the POEA has become an effective partner of private
agencies in promoting Philippine migrant labor and developing business
opportunities for labor recruiters, while earning “billions of pesos from
fees, insurance and membership dues.”
particular reason for the Philippines’ preeminence as a sending country in the
past two decades can be traced to the labor export policy of the government
starting with the Marcos dictatorship which in the late ‘70s consciously
promoted the policy of labor export and established the POEA in order to promote
migrant labor, as well as develop partnerships with and regulate private
placement agencies in order to expand Philippine labor market abroad,” writes
policy has an avowed objective of earning foreign exchange and easing the
unemployment situation,” he adds.
labor is cheap labor
the other hand, professional Filipino nurses working either as caregivers in
Canada or as healthcare assistants in the United Kingdom complain of being
discriminated in their salary compared with their counterparts in their host
according to Tujan, industrialized countries that employ them also often benefit
from their employment by way of cheap wages.
wages are depressed because employers utilize the combination of discrimination,
oppressive hiring and working conditions, effect of wage differentials in the
sending and host countries, and social and cultural differences,” Tujan says.
this sense,” he explains further, the discrimination suffered by migrants
“is not just tolerated but actually enhanced because it assures cheap wages
and reduces the cost of services in industrialized countries.”
impact of the brain drain in the Philippines remains largely undetermined, says
however, points to a “worrisome trend,” citing statistical records of the
Professional Regulation Commission which show an annual reduction in registered
nurses in the country from 27,272 in 1995 to only 5,874 in 2000, despite the
number of nursing graduates dipping only by a little more than 10 percent.
up the impact of the brain drain in the Philippines, Tujan says: “Deskilling
is not just the sacrifice in terms of professional integrity and pride of the
migrant worker or the professional challenge and development that work should
becomes more obscene in the context of the brain drain where professionals are
lost from developing countries in dire need of their precious services only to
be lost forever as they end up working as aides and domestics in the affluent
the drain, however, would have to take more than just repealing the undeclared
labor export policy of the government.
The solution, says HEAD president Dr. Jojo Carabeo, “lies in changing the system of Philippine society.” With Miriam Anzurin, PMC Reports/Reposted by Bulatlat.com