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Dec 19, 2006

Filipino Labor -- Farther Away

OcwRecent studies indicate that on any given day, 8.1 million Filipino adults (~23 percent of the Filipino labor force) is employed outside the Philippines.  The three teachers who recently moved to Durham are but one small example.  Better-known work arenas include health care workers in the US (nurses, in particular) and household help in middle-eastern or Asian nations (e.g., maids and nannies in Saudi Arabia or Singapore).

Twenty-three percent!!!  And at last count, the money they send back home ($11.6 billion in 2004) represents 13.5 percent of the Philippines national income!

My guess is that these figures do not include former Filipino nationals who have become residents or citizens of other countries, but if you add those folks in, you get an even larger sense of the lost Filipino adult presence.  Notwithstanding the money they send home, think of all the roles they aren't fulfilling within the communities they were born to.


Note: This blog entry pulls data from The Effect of Filipino Overseas Migration on the Non-Migrant Spouse's Market Participation and Labor Supply Behavior by Emily Cabegin (Aug 2006).  Wired magazine did an earlier article (One Nation: Overseas) in 2002.  Cabegin's sources indicate that overseas labor migration has been accelerating in the years since the Wired article.

Related: a US military commander in Iraq recently said that "job opportunities" is one of the most important missing ingredients for a stable Iraq.  (And anyone who wants to help with the verb/number/punctuation challenge of that sentence, speak up!)


illustration "Overseas Contract Worker" from Diong at Objects and Pixels -- much impressive stuff in acrylics and other media.

11:29 PM in Destination Durham, Weblogs | Permalink


Quite an amazing statistic, but I can almost believe it. James Fallows once wrote an article in The Atlantic about the Philippines, in which he said "the national ambition of the Philippines is to change their nationality." (another grammatical challenge). And indeed, the lines surrounding the Manila Embassy and the waiting times for green cards (10+ years in some cases) attest to the urge to emigrate. On my one visit to the Philippines we visited the teachers at a high school - these were all college graduates, and the *ambition* of several of them was to go to Hong Kong to be domestics, just for the better pay.

As an aside, this might relate to the puzzling cover on the program of this year's Phil-Am Ball, which was "1906-2006: 100 Years of the Philippine Diaspora" Diaspora?? I didn't dare ask who was Pharaoh.

And I just know how Phil must have regretted not being at that gala ball and seeing his parent's contemporaries doing the Macarena and the Electric Slide).

Posted by: Charles | Dec 25, 2006 9:33:44 PM

Re: Filipinos and the desire to be other than what they are, that's no joke.

A 50-something US Navy veteran once told me that he (and his fellow officers) were astounded by the Filipino workforce's ability to mimic/copy whatever was put in front of them. (By which he meant, "build an assembly line that works like this" or "organize your work teams to do projects according to this model", not "be like Don Rickles" -- though the CPO Sharkey model does kind of bring us full circle, doesn't it?

A book about the Philippines (maybe one of the Culture Shock series?) described the Filipino identity as "look Asian, think Spanish, act American", as reflects the influence of their geography and colonial/territorial histories.

Lastly as more of the "want to be like something else" front (at least on 3 out of 4 counts), the Filipino part of "how to tell which Asian type you are"

1. You want to be a dancer, a singer, or an actor, even though you
have a job as a nurse, a security guard, or an accountant.
2. Some member of your family is a politician or a movie star.
3. You're not afraid of black people; in fact, you wish you were
4. You don't care if you are superior to all other Asians or not,
because being Filipino is cool enough just by itself.

The whole series is here: http://www.netfunny.com/rhf/jokes/99/Mar/asians.html

It's pretty funny. Though I can't quite figure out why the Chinese get five items and everyone else just gets four.

Posted by: Phil | Dec 25, 2006 10:05:08 PM


What? I missed the Fil-Am gala?! Oh nooooo!!!

Posted by: Phil | Dec 26, 2006 12:19:53 AM