Transforming Lives, Upholding Rights: How the Philippines Promote the Welfare of Filipino Migrant Workers Beyond Borders

This op-ed is part of AASYP’s Digital Dialogues 2022, which is a programme that aims to provide a platform and forum for future leaders from across the region to contribute to the policymaking and diplomacy sphere by engaging in issues relating to innovation and investment, digital economy, and regional mobility.

As seen in the growing Filipino diaspora across the world, the Philippines has become one of the most well-known sources of migrant workers to many countries. The need to supply labour to labour-insufficient countries has steadily seen to be growing and has been an effective way to alleviate the economic needs of the Philippines, both in terms of micro and macro levels, in the form of remittances being brought by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to support their families back home. In fact, according to the 2020 World Bank report, about 9.6% of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the Philippines came from the remittances being brought by Filipino migrant workers from different parts of the world. While this has exacerbated the lack of internal strengthening of local industries to support the employment needs of many Filipinos, this phenomenon has generally created a significantly substantial positive impact on the Philippines’ economy and the families of Filipino migrant workers.

Despite the positive impacts overseas Filipino workers bring to the Philippines, various issues and problems are still encroaching on them that further trample their fundamental human rights as people and as workers. Many of them face discrimination, abuse, violence, and neglect from their host and receiving countries that aggravate their social functioning and well-being, affecting their holistic development as individuals and as migrant workers. In the case of Filipino migrants in Australia, according to the 2021 census of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the Philippines is the fifth largest migrant population in Australia, as over 310,620 Filipinos currently reside in the said country. Many Filipinos in Australia are overseas workers and have been taking working visa paths such as the Temporary Skilled 482 Visa to work in industries with skill shortages. While the said pathway has offered a lot of opportunities for Filipino migrant workers to work in Australia, according to a 2013 study conducted by the Center for Migrant Advocacy, Filipino migrant workers still experience abuse and exploitation from their employers as they are prone to excessive working hours, all types of abuses, discrimination from job mobility, among others. Furthermore, Filipino migrant workers are often not included in social protection programs to allow them to avail of social security and health benefits to attain their normal social functioning and well-being.

This sample phenomenon has been one of the primary concerns of the Philippine government ever since. The impending need to swiftly act upon these inequalities and injustices faced by many Filipinos abroad has been one of the priorities the government is addressing. The country still has a long way to go to cement the institutionalisation of the promotion and protection of Filipino migrant workers’ rights and interests, but fortunately, with the installation of the newly-instituted Department of Migrant Workers, aided by social welfare attachés, the support for Filipino migrant workers by the duty bearers is now underway to promote their rights and transcend welfare beyond borders. The said department is tasked to protect the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers from possible exploitation and discrimination against them and was assigned to consolidate executive power to aid Filipino migrant workers in distress. Furthermore, social welfare attaches are also tasked to cater to the needs of OFWs through providing relevant assistance and aid such as psychosocial support, case management, resource mobilisation, and referrals, among others, as there is a need to empower them for the promotion of their inherent rights and to ensure that their well-being.

All in all, the ongoing discrimination and exploitation experiences faced by Filipino migrant workers have been a topic of discussion through the years, and there have been arrangements in policy-making done in the Philippines to mitigate the impacts of this issue and to cater to the needs of migrant workers in dire need of help. While admittedly, the country still has a lot to do to keep up with the ever-growing demand to safeguard the rights and welfare of Filipinos abroad, significant changes have been made to address these concerns, and new methods are being planned, assessed, and developed to have effective and efficient solutions in alleviating the needs of Filipino migrant workers in the promotion of their holistic functioning and well-being.

This article was written by Jose Ramil M Reyes, edited by the Diplomacy Team, and reviewed by the AASYP Publications Team.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this op-ed are solely those of the writer and in no way represent nor reflect the position of AASYP and members of the AASYP Publications Team. The AASYP Horizons Blog provides a platform for the free expression of opinions and intellectual discourse.

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