The Flight and Plight of OFWs

I was saying in a previous article that the migration of rural youth (bringing with them the worth of their potential) into the big cities is a big economic loss to rural areas. The same can be said of Overseas Foreign Workers (OFWs) in that the destination countries are by large the beneficiary relative to the workers’ countries of origin.

As with the migrating rural youth, OFWs remit part of their earnings back home but then who back home decides how these are used? Tthe local beneficiary by large isn’t the family of the OFW but rather the whole country as total remittances keep Central Bank afloat (masking the real facts in the economy). As a result, few OFWs at the end of their contracts and returning home have been able to significantly improve their economic lives. For one, all their investments were in fact according to Rich Dad Poor Dad expense items (house, vehicles converted into taxis or vans, jeepneys) – they depreciate (as opposed to real assets which appreciate) through the years and you end up shelling out much more in maintenance (though I have reservations about the house at least in social terms). In short, their investments are in traditional notions of wealth. Unable to secure a job in the local market that pays remuneration equal to that abroad the OFW may end up selling the “investment” because he/she can’t keep up with its cost of maintenance.

Faced once again with the same hardships which makes it all the more painful, many return to being OFWs after swearing they won’t. The local market already glutted with unused or underused labor can’t absorb them. Besides, the local market is quite snobbish: it would rather hire a college graduate with “pleasing personality” from a prestigious school to man the front desk than a skilled OFW with training and international experience in front desk management, simply because it is hiring for a bargain. I guess this is the Filipino “stamp” on the market and this is what makes it uniquely and crazily “local.” (This also explains why the country has welcomed, not to put down China, Made in China goods when other developing countries declined on the grounds of quality. I mean, why buy the goods when knowing their quality even a local grade-schooler can produce them?)

So off these men and women go again. When they return again, it is in the hope that things back home have improved and perhaps they could already be absorbed, but not yet. Unfortunately for them, the local market seems permanently distorted by the “stamp.”


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