EDITORIAL: OFW Coming Home
The good news is, according to reports, the country’s unemployment rate significantly decreased to 5.2 percent in July 2022 from 7.2 percent in the same period last year. This is also the lowest unemployment rate since 2005 as reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority. We do not want to disturb this positive development by discussing social and economic issues of our OFWs.
We are following the concerns of OFW-based groups and organizations that we find relevant to employment issues and the mission of government through the newly established Department of Migrant Workers, especially related to our OFEWs belong to the marginalized social sectors.
Recent studies have it that at least 45% of our OFWs abroad are engaged in the lower level of employment (domestic helper and caregiver). Most, if not all of them are women, mothers, and sisters which are the most vulnerable sector of the population. Other jobs are also in the category of factory workers, but they are relatively secured, but still far from home and their families. The problem is still the same: what will be the situation when our OFWs decide or plan to come home?
Our OFW-related agencies (POEA and OWWA are now under the new Department of Migrant Workers) have, and are still implementing OFW training programs such as one-day pre-departure seminar, and a 4-6 days of pre-departure training.
OWWA’s programs include enterprise development, skills training, and livelihood assistance to promote employment and self-employment. However, recent studies reveal that the concept and methodologies are more suited to OFWs with a higher level of education qualifications, hence they perfunctorily exclude marginalized OFWs. The reintegration program named Balik Pinas, Balik Hanap Buhay project (BP-BH) is a good one but it is menu-based, non-cash assistance, hence it also does not offer a wide choice of economic activity for the OFWs. The most needed project intervention for the marginalized sector of our OFWs must have a more participative, adaptable design and objectives.
Our recommend objective, and strategy should be: to provide disadvantaged OFWs and their families an avenue for the maintenance of closer and more productive relationships while they are separated by distance and time; provide an alternative strategy in enterprise development that OFWs and their families can work on together where their small savings can be invested in growth-oriented business undertakings that they will plan, understand and capable of sustaining and expanding, to help the government’s effort reduce poverty and minimize social problems, and to augment the existing programs, services and helpful mechanisms of government, NGOs, the private sector, including foreign employers and governments to improve the flights of OFWs and their families locally and abroad.
This might need new development strategy programs, but it can be done if we want to address the social and economic concerns of our poor and disregarded OFWs.