A Land of Milk and Honey

By Anna Galathea

A major chunk of Filipino local workers and job-seekers dream of going abroad. For some, this is their ”American Dream;” their green pasture, their land of milk and honey. They dream of going to the U.S., Canada, Australia, or oil-rich countries which will give them the ticket to a much better life.

LandofMH-1aThe number of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who worked abroad at anytime during the period of April to September 2014 was estimated at 2.3 million. There were slightly more female OFWs (50.5%) than male (49.5%) OFWs. The OFWs in age group 25 to 29 years comprised the largest single group (24.8%) followed by those aged 30 to 34 years (23.7%).’ (Source: Philippine Statistics Authority, NSO).

It was reported in the past that some families sell their carabaos and their properties just to get their loved one hopping on a plane. This was their hope, the seemingly only solution to all their problems. For some people, they take desperate measures to loan large amounts of money to pay

the airline ticket, visa, agency fees, government fees, and other expenses. The worst thing would be after all the expenses and hard work of processing the required papers, the agency they have been paying to is actually a bogus one, and everything spent will go down the drain. This is traumatic for these families who spent all they worked hard for and were deceived.

Going abroad and being an expatriate worker is a very risky business. It’s gambling in itself. You risk your money, your time, your local job, and everything you have lived for just to go to a foreign land which you think is a green pasture awaiting you.

A report cited eight reasons why Filipinos would like to work (or live) abroad (Source: DYRI RMN 774khz Iloilo)

1. Unstable economic situation

LandofMH1Many Filipinos were driven to leave their families to work overseas because of their lack of confidence with the current government. Grave corruption, high tax rate, inefficiency in government’s functions, among others, make the citizens feel that the government is not capable to provide a good future for them, thus, they look for a greener pasture outside.

2. High unemployment rate
The nation could not just sustain the influx of graduates and jobless yearly, thus, the competition for jobs is very tight.

3. Low salary offered by local companies
This is a major reason why Filipinos leave their family behind and venture to the unknown. Employers in the Philippines could not give the equivalent income a worker will earn abroad. Oftentimes, they work on a lower position abroad though they graduated with a degree. For example, some teachers work as domestic helpers or clerks abroad despite their college degree.

4. Contractual employment arrangement
Employers take advantage of the high unemployment rate that they offer contractual work only to the workers. This brings a great deal of insecurity for those who are employed under such conditions as there is no security of tenure. Employers will always think nobody is indispensable and will not protect and cherish his/her employee. An example of this arrangement is the job of mall sales ladies or service crew in fast food. For this, there is no sense of security of a long-term job.

5. Poor Benefits

Local employers prefer to hire employees on a contractual basis because it is easier to let go of them — a labor loophole in the country — no health benefits and accident insurance coverage necessary. Again, this is an advantage for the employers as they disregard giving the labor rights/benefits of the employees knowing that they are desperate for a job. They will set the bait knowing the 
poor applicant will grab it.

LandofMH36. OFWs are more pampered 

There are special benefits an OFW is enjoying while working abroad. Most of them are covered by better protection, discounted health insurance, special lanes for overseas workers at the airport, they are even more favored as expatriate workers by the labor laws of some countries, etc. They are seen as modern day 
heroes of the Philippines for pumping in billions worth of remittance dollars.

7. It’s not so lonely to go abroad anymore 

Life is much easier now for OFWs than in the past. Before was like sentencing oneself into exile into a hostile land. No friends, unfamiliar surroundings, different language and culture, weather and food. But now the influx of a million Filipinos everywhere had made the overseas country conducive to work. There were Filipino entertainers touring these countries for concerts and shows. Filipino food, items, among other things, are now available overseas. And of course, the communication technology and social media had brought OFWs 
closer to home and their families.

8. Discrimination in job hiring
Discrimination is so prevalent in the Philippines that those coming from ‘unpopular’ universities or colleges get a lower chance to get hired. The priority is for those who graduated from UP, Ateneo, De La Salle…. They discriminate also by height, physical appearance, age, etc. Thus, those who are left behind turn to countries abroad where they think they will be appreciated. In the Philippines, a fast food server must be at least a college graduate. But in some countries, a diploma is not so necessary, they prefer to hire you based on your skill or knowledge. One example is a graduate of Social Work but is working as an accountant in Saudi. Another one is a vocational graduate of Food and Beverage but is working as an Autocadd Designer at a good salary in Bahrain. A highschool graduate can even work in an office abroad or in a construction company. In a foreign land, they are welcomed with open arms.

LandofMH4To add one more on a personal note, working overseas has a sense of attraction for ambitious and dreamy Filipinos. They think that to work abroad is a feather in their cap. It elevates their status from local employees if they’ve been to a foreign land. It gives them a sense of edge over those who never left the country. But the setback here is, they will not always find the same income they earn abroad once they go back to the local market. Some OFWs who were forced to go back home find themselves wanting to go back abroad once they look for a job in their homeland.

Working abroad is not always milk and honey. It will always be a risk. This is for the brave and courageous. It entails a lot of sacrifice just to give a better future for your loved ones. Especially for

those who work as domestic helpers, where they are forced to embed themselves in their foreign masters’ household, they face a lot of risk from sexual abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse, and other dangers.

For those who want to work overseas, they must think a thousand times and must pray hard. They need to do some research on the country, people, and the company they will be working for. For expatriate workers, be wise. Save. Our purpose is not just to give our family a good life, but to prepare in order to survive and live a more comfortable life in the future. Save. Plan. Make the most out of the land of milk and honey. To conclude, there are 3 words an OFW must be: Optimistic, Forbearing, and Wise.


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