Hard times ahead: What awaits our OFWs?

Massive repatriation of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) likely in the next few months as a result of impending mass lay-offs. The vast army of those who toil in the service and production sectors comprising nearly 40% of all OFWs deployed in 2007 would be the hardest hit.

For those whose jobs will be spared, their wages will soon be drastically cut to as much as half in some countries in Asia and the Americas.

Discrimination and xenophobia against OFWs will worsen as they will be blamed for stealing jobs from the local workers. As we have seen in the past, this phenomenon will be whipped up by host governments if only to ward off accountability in the crisis.

The same thing happened during the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Now on to the scary part.

More Filipinas will likely end up in the flesh trade just to cope up with the hard times. Others may even be forced to sell their blood and internal organs just to survive.

Deportations and crackdowns all over the world will intensify. Expect host governments especially in the western countries to employ more brutal measures in ridding their countries of undocumented workers.

Incidents of suicides and mental illnesses among our OFWs will also shoot-up especially during the Christmas season.

Despite all this, the deployment of Filipinos overseas will continue in its upward trend as it is expected that the Arroyo government would be more aggressive than ever to scour the ends of the Earth for more labor markets.

Needless to say, this government will collapse if it loses even a morsel of the average US$1 billion monthly remittance of our OFWs. So knowing that remittance flows will start to dwindle, the government will certainly cover up for this by deploying more workers.

And this is their central game plan on the upcoming 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) that the Arroyo regime will be hosting here in Manila this end of the month. Arroyo and the entire government overseas employment machinery will endeavor to peddle the Filipino worker to the lowest bidder in exchange for the gargantuan profits they will bring in to the crisis ridden economy.

What about the thousands of OFWs who will be repatriated back to the country?

Up until now, the government is still mum on their contingency plans for those will be affected by the crisis. But odds on, the returning army of unemployed workers will be offered two options by the government: to either train for a vocation that is currently “in-demand” abroad like welding and butchery etc or work for a call center.

Expect the Technological Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), the government’s training arm that is devoted to producing workers for export, to dish out scholarships to them. You guessed it; the government’s plan is to ship them out again as soon as they equip them with the skills needed in other countries.

It is also likely that the government will strike a deal with leading call center companies for them to consider hiring “English speaking” OFW returnees.

Of course a job in a call center couldn’t guarantee that these returnees wouldn’t be packing their bags as soon they have the opportunity. The Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector will also start to feel the effects of this crisis. Wages in call centers will be drastically cut and foremost to be affected by this will be the new hires.

As for the rest of us here in the country, what awaits us are more taxes and repressive measures from the government. As the crisis grows bigger and bigger, so will the government’s authoritarian tendencies to maintain a semblance of order and rule.

This is how grave poverty is in the Philippines. What’s even graver is the past and present regime’s skewed economic priorities that keeps us in a perpetual state of stagnation and dejection.

Instead of generating gainful employment here in the country, the government looks at the systematic export of its citizens abroad as a way out.

Instead of setting up our own industries and developing our agricultural base to serve the needs of our people, this government allows the unbridled plunder of our economy to foreign countries and their local ruling class cohorts.

This is why it is no surprise why three thousand Filipinos leave the country on a daily basis. Now Arroyo wants to call them ‘expats’ instead of OFWs!


This post is part of Blog Action Day 2008 in the Philippines and all over the world.


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