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Philippines and Mexico’s emigrants and their destinations

by Juan “Jed”  E. Dayang, Jr.

The Australia National University

The Philippines and Mexico are two of the largest labour migrant sending countries in the world with 1/1oth  of their populations living abroad.

With almost four decades of managed labour migration, the Philippines has emerged as a leading labour sending country in East Asia. The Philippines is also the principal source of seafarers at more than 330,000 mariners. Mexico, on the other hand, has a longer history of emigration to the United States (U.S.), starting from the early 20th century.  Mexicans have become the largest ethnic group in the U. S.   Filipino and Mexican migrants are largely concentrated in low-skilled and low-paying jobs. For the Philippines, this trend slightly changed in the 1990s with more migrants leaving the country for higher paying work.

In 2010,  there  was an estimated 8.5 million overseas Filipinos while Mexico has more than 11 million Mexican-born migrants out of the 30 million Mexican immigrants in the U.S. In terms of migration types,  Filipino permanent migrants represent 47% or 3.8 million while temporary migrants represent 45%  or  4.06 million Overseas Filipino Workers. For Mexico,  there are more than 30 million Mexican immigrants in the United States alone, where around 11 million are  temporary migrants.

Mexico has a significantly larger unauthorized migrants than the Philippines. Irregular Filipino  migrants are estimated at 660,000  persons or 8% of the total Filipino migrants while more than half of the 11 million temporary migrants from Mexico in the U.S. are unauthorised. Thus,  Mexico has about 3 times more irregular migrants that the Philippines which are vulnerable to abuses. Irregular workers present challenges for sending states. These sectors are mostly marginalised, prone to abuse and  are socially excluded.

In terms of destination countries, the difference between the Philippines and Mexico is that Filipino emigrants are scattered in 214 countries (including non-UN members)  in the world while Mexican emigrants are concentrated in North America, particularly in the United States.  For permanent emigrants, the highest concentration of immigration for Filipinos is also in the United States owing to its colonial links with the U.S. and later through family sponsored migration.

The Philippine top five destination countries of total emigrants include the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Canada, United Arab Emirates, and Australia. The top five destination countries for permanent Filipino migrants are the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, and the United Kingdom. Except for Japan, all the other countries uses English as official language. The top five destination countries for temporary workers from the Philippines include Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman— all of them are in the Middle East.  This was a result of the Philippine government’s decision to send migrant workers in the Middle East in the 1970s. For Mexico, the top five destination of migrants in US States are California, Texas, Illinois, Arizona, and Georgia. In terms of Mexican-born immigrants, the top five destinations are New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Arkansas, and Idaho.

The Philippines and Mexico as two of the largest labour sending countries in the world, also have among the best practices in migration management and migrant workers’ protection.  One of the key determinants in establishing diplomatic and consular missions for both the Philippines and Mexico is to serve their emigrant populations overseas. The two countries share commonalities in promoting migrant workers’ rights and a staunch advocate of the United Nations 1990 Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and their Families.

Migrant Workers Profit from Financial Literacy, Research Shows

September 7, 2011 6 comments

Click for Pdf copy: Effects of Financial Literacy Among OFWs in Seoul

Effects of Financial Education among Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Seoul, Korea:

Evidence from a Survey 

Juan “Jed” E. Dayang, Jr.

(Supervised by the University of Oklahoma)

A survey conducted by the Philippine Embassy in South Korea in 2008 showed that financial education plays a very important role in increasing the financial literacy of overseas Filipino migrant workers and encouraging specific behaviours among them.

The study aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of the Embassy’s Financial Literacy Program (FLP) demonstrated that the scores of participants improved by 47% after attending a two-hour seminar, from an average score of 3.06 to 4.5 out of a possible perfect score of 7.  See Figure 1.  At the same time, most of the participants expressed interest in initiating some form of personal financial planning and persuading their families back in the Philippines to adopt the same method.

The Financial Literacy Program (FLP) was specially designed to address the unique circumstances of Filipino migrant workers in Korea and the savings culture among Filipinos. (Please see related blog articles .)  

The Survey

The Embassy administered a survey composed of standard open and close-ended questions  to participants before and after the seminar. The pretest survey was divided into three main sections: the first part examined the participant’s general behaviour or attitude regarding financial planning; the second part tested the participant’s knowledge about financial concepts, while the last one focused on demographic information.

Behaviours promoted in the campaign were: setting short and long-term financial goals; saving money regularly; making a written budget for expenses; comparing actual expenses to the budget; paying bills on time; reviewing bills for accuracy; and comparison-shopping before making purchases. The seven questions in the second part highlighted key concepts in financial planning, namely budgets, savings, compound interest, inflation rate, risk, liquidity and insurance. The post-test, meanwhile, explored changes in the participants’ behaviour and knowledge using the same indicators.

The Respondents

More than 200 participants volunteered to take part in the survey. Forty-eight respondents successfully completed the forms, which the researcher used as the sample size of the population.    Majority of the respondents were between 26 to 35 years old, are married with children, have a college degree, earn between US$1,000 and US$1,500 per month, and have been in Korea for less than three years. Of the total respondents, 27 were men and 21 were women.

The Results

Figure 2 shows that, as a result of the seminar, respondents agreed on the need to adopt the program’s intended behaviours. The program appeared to be most effective in promoting the importance of budgets and of regularly saving. (Respondents who were undecided or who have already been practicing the intended behaviours get a score of “0”). Respondents were also asked when they intend to practice what they learned the seminar.


Figure 2.
As a result of the program, participants
believe that they should:
Average Score
Rank
Short- and Long-Term Financial Goals
1
5
Save Money Regularly
1.19
2
Make a Written Budget for My Expenses
1.33
1
Compare My Actual Expenses to My Budget
1.17
3
Pay My Bills on Time
0.9
7
Review My Bills For Accuracy
0.92
6
Comparison-shop Before Making Purchases       
1.02
4
Average
1.07
Scoring:

(2)  Strongly Agree
(1)  Agree
(0)  Undecided /Already Doing This
(-1)  Disagree
(-2)  Strongly Disagree


Figure 3 shows the urgency with which the respondents regard the changes. Respondents stated that they will begin using budgets within the following month. Comparing actual expenses to the budget, among the top attitudes which respondents also agreed was necessary, also scored high.

Figure 3.
As a result of the program, the participants will implement their learning:
Average Score
Rank
Short- and Long-Term Financial Goals
2.73
3
Save Money Regularly
2.71
4
Make a Written Budget for My Expenses
3.04
1
Compare My Actual Expenses to My Budget
2.79
2
Pay My Bills on Time
2.48
6
Review My Bills For Accuracy
2.33
7
Comparison-shop Before Making Purchases       
2.69
5
Average
2.68
Scoring:
(4)     This Month
(3)     Next Month
(2)     In 2 to 3 Months
(1)     In 6 months
(0)     Will not Do/Already doing this

The Embassy considered the willingness of the participants to share their learning with their family as an important indicator of the success of the program, since migrant workers tend to send all remittances to their families back home. The families, therefore, have direct control over the finances.  See Figure 4.

Figure 4.
As a result of the program, participants believe that they should share and encourage their families to adopt the following behaviours:
Average Score
Rank
Short- and Long-Term Financial Goals
1.23
2
Save Money Regularly
1.35
1
Make a Written Budget for My Expenses
1.13
5
Compare My Actual Expenses to My Budget
1.19
3
Pay My Bills on Time
0.02
7
Review My Bills For Accuracy
0.06
6
Comparison-shop Before Making Purchases       
1.15
4
Average
1.07
Scoring:

(2)  Strongly Agree
(1)  Agree
(0)  Undecided /Already Doing This
(-1)  Disagree
(-2)  Strongly Disagree

In this regard, the seminar convinced the respondents to encourage their families to adopt the intended behaviours, particularly in saving, setting short- and long-term financial goals, and comparing actual expenses to the budget.

Based on the results of the basic financial literacy test, respondents became more knowledgeable about basic financial management concepts. Figure 1 shows that the modal score increased from 3 to 6 out of a possible perfect score of 7. From an average of 43.75%, performance increased to 64.29%. See Figure 5.

This is clearly evident in Figure 6, which shows that the bulk of respondents scored low before the seminar but reversed the trend after. Most respondents have a college degree; the seminar therefore helped in at least reminding the respondents of concepts they learned in high school and college.

Figure 7 looks at the scores in detail. Prior to the seminar, the weakest area was in liquidity test and only 18.75% of the respondents got the correct answer. Insurance, the weakest area after the seminar, was at 45.83%. Respondents displayed consistent strength in the areas of compound interest, saving and budgeting. The greatest improvement was in liquidity score, which doubled from 18.75% to 50%.

Respondents rated the overall program between “helpful” and “very helpful.”  The instructor received the top score with 1.70, followed by content at 1.67 out of the maximum score of 2.

Conclusion  

The survey showed that financial education is effective in increasing the knowledge base of migrant workers and encouraging specific behaviours. It may be noted that although certain scores or behaviours rank lower than others, the overall impact was positive. The next research stage is to follow-up from the same respondents whether they actually changed their behaviours and what actions they did to improve their financial status. The longitudinal study can be done by getting the same respondents around six months or beyond from the program and monitoring their progress. Currently, the Philippine Embassy which started the program in 2008 have monitored the progress of the respondents through personal interviews recorded on video. The seminars laid the foundation; future programs will build on the consciousness raised by the financial literacy campaign. The survey also provided invaluable feedback which gave the Embassy an idea which concepts or behaviors needed more focus—for instance, respondents do not seem to be persuaded of the need to convince their families to pay bills on time—and, through the written assessments of the respondents, revealed the inclination of participants in terms of current difficulties and future projects.

Note:  Prof. Aimee Franklin, Director of the Public Administration Program, Department of Political Science of the University of Oklahoma supervised the study as part of the author’s Masters of Public Administration (MPA) degree research paper in 2009. Initial results of the survey were published by the Embassy News (2008).  He acknowledges the assistance of  Consul Arnel Talisayon and the support of the Philippine Ambassador Luis Cruz in conducting the survey.  He also thanks  Labor Attaché Delmer Cruz , Welfare Officer Esperanza Cobarrubias and Commercial Counselor Edgardo Garcia for their support of the FLP. The study may be reproduced and circulated with citations. A copy of the MPA paper may viewed upon request.

Advocating Financial Literacy to Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs)


 by Juan “Jed” E. Dayang, Jr.*


During my diplomatic and consular posting at the Philippine Embassy in South Korea,  my interest in personal financial management skills development slowly intensified as my six-year tour of duty was about to end.

Books on wealth management, wealth creation, and making the most of one’s money and resources were some of the staple reading materials I studied.

In my college days, I did well, out of sheer interest, in business, finance, and accounting subjects.  The practical understanding of finances made it easier for me to make informed and effective decisions. My interest in business and finance was reignited when I was tasked to initiate the Financial Literacy Program for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in South Korea.

One of the most valuable lessons of savings and investments is having a mindset of “paying yourself first.”  It’s a simple trick.  Before spending for anything, set aside a portion for savings. Using principles of compound interest over periods of time, $1 today could be $100 tomorrow. But one has to start saving and investing today.

I also learned from the book “The Millionaire Next Door” by Stanley and Danko that America’s wealthiest were also among the most frugal people.  These wealthy Americans built their riches through simple living. They also  generated assets through active and passive incomes, the latter being generally referred to as “making your money work for you.”

As I educated myself on personal financial management, I also felt the urge to share this newly acquired knowledge to OFWs.  I thought that they would benefit immensely from financial literacy knowledge and money management skills.  They could earn active and passive incomes that could  sustain them and their families financial even when they have decided to return to the Philippines “for good.”

My initial and informal survey of Filipino workers in Seoul to find out about their saving patterns revealed that many of them will return home without savings nor sound investments. I spoke with  Natty (not her real name), who intimated that despite working for five years as a nanny, she has not managed to set-aside her own savings. The reason was that she sent all her earnings back home to help her family and relatives. She also lamented that her hard-earned income were spent on consumer goods and “unnecessary expenses” instead of investments.

The tale of Natty  is not surprising.   The Philippines has one of the lowest savings rates in Asia,  Iestimated at 19-23% of the GDP. Its neighbours Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam posted savings rates from to 34-40%  of GDP.  In terms of financial literacy, Filipino scored low according to the latest Citi Financial Quotient (Fin-Q) survey by Citi Bank.   In 2011, the average score was 48.9%, slightly lower than last year’s 49% but higher than 46.6% in 2008 and the 47.8% baseline score in 2007.[1]  In addition, based on a survey cited by Sun Life, “out of 100 Filipinos, 90 percent have little or no savings at all. Out of 100 Filipinos who get sick, 95 percent sacrifice their savings, out of 100 Filipino children, only 10 percent will graduate from college. Out of 100 Filipinos aged 65, 45 percent are dependent on relatives.”[2]  These results show the need for more aggressive financial literacy education programs to help Filipinos attain financial management skills.

In 2008, when Ambassador Luis T. Cruz, thought of initiating a savers’ club in South Korea, I jumped at the opportunity to take the lead in conceiving the FLP for OFWs in South Korea.   With the backing of the Ambassador, I worked with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), which just launched a “return and reintegration program” for OFWs, and with the Philippine Trade and Investment Centre (PTIC).   OWWA provided funding support and assisted in preparing the training program, while PTIC promoted the “one town-one product” concept to promote OFW investments in their hometowns. With the FLP in motion, the Philippine Embassy in Seoul was the first to implement the financial literacy seminars among Embassies scattered around the globe.

The FLP, which started on March 30, 2008  was introduced to OFWs in Seoul and later to other parts of South Korea. With the help of Filipino community groups,  the Embassy was able to initiate more than a dozen seminars to more than 400 participants in less than a year.  Based on a study conducted by the author using a pre-test, post-test survey[3], the FLP improved the participants’ financial literacy and money management skills. The respondents also showed keen interest in applying their newly acquired knowledge and to share them with their families. The program has demonstrated its relevance, effectiveness and replicability.  For the past three years, the Embassy has been conducting FLPs as well as training in entrepreneurship to OFWs in South Korea.

The objectives of FLP vary from maximizing the potentials of remittances to poverty-alleviation and development in the  Philippines to forming values of thrift to OFWs.   The FLP also provides the government an opportunity to engage with Filipino communities overseas productively.

Financial literacy education to OFWs as well as to other disadvantaged sectors (for example youth and women) is timely as the world is experiencing the global financial crisis.  These days with the recession in the United States and the economic gloom in Europe, we are facing an “increasingly perilous financial world.”[4]  During these uncertain times, it becomes even more imperative to promote financial literacy and learn the value of savings, creating passive income, diversifying investments, planning for the long-term, setting-up an emergency fund or having insurance, and saving for the future by practicing frugality—concepts every individual must be aware of in good economic times or bad, with or without the current financial crunch.

Achieving financial freedom is one of the ways human beings could live a more dignified and fruitful life. By learning personal financial management skills and by sharing it to others even to just one disadvantaged person, we could help eradicate poverty.

 

 

 

 

*Jed, an advocate of financial literacy to OFWs,  initiated and coordinated the Financial Literacy Program of the Philippine Embassy in Seoul, South Korea in 2008. He made a study on the “Effects of Financial Education to OFWs in Seoul: Evidence from a Survey” supervised by the Political Science Department of the University of Oklahoma in 2009. He has continued his advocacy by conducting seminars on a pro-bono basis and recently started a blog titled “Tips on Saving Time, Money and the Planet” (http://savetimemoneyearth.wordpress.com/).


[1]Doris C. Dumlao, “Filipinos upbeat about financial future,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 3 2011.

[2] Patricia Esteves, “To raise Pinoys’ financial literacy is Sun Life’s advocacy ” The Philippine Star, August 15 2011.

[3] See “Effects of Financial Literacy Program to OFWs in Seoul: Evidence from a Survey,” thesis of Juan E. Dayang, Jr., Masters of Public Administration,University of Oklahoma, Norman.

[4] Elizabeth Johnson and Margareth Sherraden, “From Financial Literacy to Financial Capability Among Youth,” Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare 24, no. 3 (2007).

Financial Literacy Campaign and the Philippine Government


by Juan E. Dayang, Jr and Arnel G. Talisayon

President Benigno Aquino III, who promotes job creation rather than emigration, confers with Vice President Jejomar Binay during the 2010 Model OFW Family of the Year Awards rites in Manila (photo: Ryan Lim, GMA News).

Government Promotes  “Culture of Savings” to OFWs[*]

The number of Overseas Filipino Workers  (OFWs) has reached more than 10% of the Philippine population. The Philippines is among the top  receiver of remittances in 2010 with approximately $18.76-billion total. The remittances of Overseas Filipinos substantially help the Philippine economy and provide enough buffer for the country to weather financial  shortfalls.

This phenomenon of labour migration has become so widespread that one out  of every ten Filipinos is a migrant worker. Almost half of the total Filipino population depends in some way on the earnings of a migrant worker relative. The Philippine Government has therefore made it a point to safeguard the basic rights of the Filipino OFWs and to promote their welfare.

Nevertheless, the sustainability of this reliance on foreign remittances has been criticized time and again. Among other reasons, there appears to be a phenomenon where OFWs and their families left back home fail to improve their quality of life in the long-term, giving rise to a so-called temporary middle-class: while one member of the family works abroad, the rest of the family members enjoy substantial material comforts. This sense of sufficiency and security immediately stops as soon as the OFW finishes one’s contract and returns home.

The family then regresses to square one—at least until another family member packs and leaves to work abroad.  According to Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Officer Esperanza Cobarrubias, a glaring similarity in many cases is the wanton lack of savings as the remittances are used up for material acquisitions (expensive mobile phones, cars or entertainment systems) in keeping with the newfound middle class status.

Due to this phenomenon, the Philippine government had launched a financial literacy campaign to help educate OFWs on the proper way to invest their dollars and become Overseas Filipino Investors or OFIs—a positive retake on OFWs. This campaign emphasizes sound financial management in order to become better decision makers, the first step towards which is increasing awareness about setting aside  portion of one’s income for future use or, in other words, saving.

In response, the Central Bank of the Philippines (BSP) has undertaken a nationwide “Financial Literacy Campaign.” Since February 2006, the BSP has been providing resource persons and other logistics requirements to teach entrepreneurship and investments in different financial instruments and has extended this campaign to 24 cities and provinces.

The BSP has in fact launched the first of its international road shows in Hong Kong on September 14, 2008. According to the BSP, the whole-day forum underscores the importance of savings and informs participants of alternative opportunities for their remittances, such as placements in financial instruments and investments in business ventures.

“Financial education is key to unlocking the potential of remittances as a tool for development in countries like the Philippines with a large segment of the population employed overseas,” said BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. The program also hopes to prepare Overseas Filipinos for their eventual reintegration into the country. The BSP continues to bring its campaign to countries with a large concentration of overseas Filipinos, such as Singapore, Japan, Italy and Saudi Arabia.

The Philippine government, under President Benigno C. Aquino III, continues to underscore the need for financial education among overseas Filipinos. Thankful for the invaluable contributions of OFWs to the Philippine economy yet aware of the challenges of migration, it has consistently emphasized financial literacy as a key component in shoring up the economy and mitigating the social impacts of migration.

Note:

The Financial Literacy Campaign  of the Philippine Embassy in South Korea was initiated in 2008 by then Consul and Second Secretary Juan “Jed” Dayang, Jr. with the Philippine Overseas Labour Office-OWWA’s then Welfare Officer Esperanza Cobarrubias and  Commercial Counsellor Edgardo Garcia.   Arnel,  consul and second secretary at Embassy in Seoul  coordinates  the Financial Literacy Campaign (FLC)  to OFWs in South Korea. The FLC remains the flagship project of the Embassy under leadership of Ambassador Luis Cruz.


[*] Updated by Jed from the co-authored original publication by  Jed Dayang and  Arnel G. Talisayon, “Financial Literacy Campaign and the Philippine Government,” Embassy News(2008), http://www.philembassy-seoul.com/forms/Vol_1_Special_Issue.pdf.

For more details on the program of BSP, see: Financial Education Master Plan (FEP) Vision – Financial Education: Building Block for a Stronger Economyat: http://www.financial-education.org/document/3/0,3746,en_39665975_39667065_40280579_1_1_1_1,00.html

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs): New Heroes

OFW: New Heroes

by Juan “Jed” E.  Dayang, Jr.

The Australian National University

 

 

As of 2010, there is an estimated 8,579,378 Filipinos overseas.[1]   The number of temporary migrant workers or Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) is estimated at 4,522,438.[2]  With its decades long of experience in labour migration, the Philippines has become the leading labor sending country in East Asia.  The country has also become the principal source of seafarers in the international maritime business.

The economic contribution of overseas Filipinos is substantial. Their remittances sustain their families and contribute to poverty reduction. Although, the remittances may not have a wider contribution to national economic growth, it has definitely improved the lives of many families who benefit from the money flows from their family members who are working overseas. In 2010 their remittance flow was US$18.8M which grew by 8% compared to the previous year. It represented close to 10% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.[3] For their contribution to the economy, they have been lauded as “modern-day heroes” by the government and by the Philippine media.

Waves of Migration

Migration of Filipino workers has been recorded as early as the Spanish colonization.[4] Early accounts of emigration from the Philippines points to a native who worked in the ship of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan when he first circumnavigated the world and discovered the Philippines for Spain in the 16th century.  However, the first group of Filipino workers who were recorded to work overseas were those who were forced by Spanish colonizers to man ships during the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade between 1565 to 1815 that brought goods from the Orient to the “new world” and vice versa.[5]  During the Spanish colonial period that ended in 1898, there were Filipinos who went to Spain as students, including national hero Jose Rizal.

First Wave

The 20th century saw more Filipinos leaving for the US as a result of the colonial linkage between the Philippines and the United States which started in after the Philippine-American war (1899-1902) until the Philippine declaration of independence in 1946.   The first wave[6] of emigration of Filipinos was between 1900 to early 1940s to the United States. The first two decades after the US annexation of the Philippines in 1898, many of the Filipinos who went to the US were college and university students who were trained in US universities to spread democracy and take leadership roles in the Philippines.[7]

Second Wave

The second wave to the US began after World War II till the end of the war in Vietnam. It was also during the same period when   the Philippines gained its independence from the US on July 4, 1946.  The number of Filipinos in the US grew because of the naturalization quota of 100 per year which was approved by the US Congress and announced by President Harry Truman on July 4. The quota, which lasted for two decades was not based on ethnic considerations but based on the occupational needs of the US and if the Filipino had relatives in the United States.[8]  At that time, there were many Filipino WWII veterans who were given special US citizenship privileges. The US also accepted skilled workers– doctors, nurses, accountants, engineers and other professions. When the US Congress passed the new Immigration Reform Act in 1965, it allowed family members to reunite with their American based relatives. This again led to the surge of American immigration of Filipinos.

In the 1950s and the 1960s, there were Filipinos in non-professional labour contracts that went to East Asia as barbers, artists, and musicians. There were also Filipinos who went as loggers to Indochina. The Korean and Vietnam War also created overseas jobs for Filipinos particularly in civilian and military operations in Japan, Guam, Thailand, Wake Island and Vietnam. There were also nurses who went to Canada and Australia. The third wave, which is more widely known and most persistent, was during the mid-1970s to 1990s.

Third Wave

It was in the 1970s when the government started sending migrant workers to curb unemployment and to shore up the country’s foreign currency reserves of the government. It was during this period that the labour migration program by the Philippine government was institutionalized.[9] The economic decline due to the higher world prices of crude oil created massive unemployment in the country. In the Middle East, however, the members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) were making so much profit. As a result of the oil-export boom, there was a  high demand for labour to support its fresh enterprise.  Former President Ferdinand Marcos  was quick to tap this opportunity to  promote Filipino contract workers to alleviate unemployment that created a huge labour surplus.   The foreign policy that Marcos adopted was called  “Development Diplomacy,” which  was aimed at exporting excess labour supply. By 1980, the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) deployment of overseas contract workers has jumped by 75% compared to previous year.[10] This time, the Department of Foreign Affairs has made protection of migrant workers as a third pillar of the country’s foreign policy which is of equal significance to the promotion of the political and economic interests of the Philippines overseas.

Conclusion

The Philippines has become the leading labor sending country in East Asia with 10% of its population living and working  in more than 190 countries overseas.  The emigration flows can be summed up in three waves of migration: the first wave from 1900s-1940,  the second from 1940s-1960s  and the most pervasive was during the third wave from 1970s to 1990s. The economic contribution of Overseas Filipino Workers or OFWs have reduced poverty incidence and increased the welfare of their families in the Philippines. The remittance flow also shore up the foreign currency reserves of the country. For the country and their family members, OFWs are real-life heroes.  The Philippine government has made protection of OFWs as a key pillar of its foreign policy agenda.


[1] “Stock Estimate of Overseas Filipinos,” ed. Commission on Filipinos Overseas (Manila: Office of the President, 2010).

[2] Ibid.

[3] “2010 OF Remittances Surpass 8% Growth Projection; Full-Year Level Reaches US$18.8 Billion,”  http://www.bsp.gov.ph/publications/media.asp?id=2515.

[4] read Filomeno V. Aguilar Jr., ed. At Home in the World: Filipinos in Global Migrations (Quezon City: Philippine Migration Research Network and Philippine Social Science Council, 2002).and Joaquin L. Gonzales, Philippine Labour Migration  (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), 1998).

[5] ———, Philippine Labour Migration.

[6]Ibid.

[7] For an earlier work on Filipino migrants to the Unites States see H. Brett Melendy, “Filipinos in the United States,” Pacific Historical Review University of California Press 43, no. 4 (1974).

[8] Ibid.

[9] Gonzales, Philippine Labour Migration.

[10] Graziano Battistella, Philippine labor migration : impact and policy (Quezon City Scalabrini Migration Center, 1992).

Why Consular Service Matters for Citizens

by Juan “Jed” E. Dayang, Jr.

The Australian National University

 

 

In a Facebook page of the US Department of State’s Careers in Foreign Affairs, there was a topic on the Discussion Board which asked:  Why is the consular cone one of the last sought after career tracks?

  It leads the reader to think or perceive that consular service is unpopular compared with other career tracks in the US State Department which include economic affairs, management affairs, political affairs and public diplomacy.

If diplomats are “front-line professionals” representing their countries abroad to serve the interest of their country and to protect their citizens, then why are there few Americans who want to take the consular track?

According to some studies by The Hague Journal of Diplomacy, one of the reasons why foreign service officers avoid consular work is because some diplomats consider it as subordinate to diplomatic work which primarily deals with political affairs. For many who have higher degrees before entering the service, consular work is not the real work of diplomats.   Based on the the replies of those who responded in the FB forum, there those who view consular work as routine.  The work can also have potential risks.  A wrong decision could hurt one’s career and reputation. However, those views are changing. In today’s diplomacy, handling political issues is just one of the many facets of new diplomacy.  Contemporary global challenges ran a gamut from economic and trade to environment, human rights and migration issues. It is also far from being routine. Everyday, a consular officer can assist citizens with different cases and circumstances.  The job also provides one of the best ways to serve the public and can be morally rewarding.

Importance of Consular Service

The function of consuls is to represent the state abroad to promote trade interest and protect its citizens. Consular representation predates the modern state and certainly the Vienna Convention of Consular Relations of 1963.  Many are familiar with high-profile cases concerning citizens in trouble overseas such as the victims of the 9/11 World Trade Center bombings in New York City and  the Bali bombings that killed many people.  In the last few months, we have seen governments providing assistance to their citizens who are caught in harm’s way either in natural calamities or in conflict zones. These are often very severe cases and highly charged. But the immensity of consular work is rarely recognized widely. And a few people know how broad and a complex consular affair is.

In the next section, I will cite examples of consular services of Australia, the Philippines and Mexico.

Australia

Australia is a nation of travelers. More than 3.5 million Australians – almost 20 per cent of the population – travel abroad each year. The majority of Australians do not need to go to an embassy or consulate for help. But despite adequate preparation, some Australians may suffer difficulties when overseas. Some of the programs of theAustralia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are the Smart Traveler where Australians can check travel advisories and register their contact details when going overseas, the 24-hour consular hotline, and the crisis response team led by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Philippines and Mexico

The Philippines and Mexico are nations of emigrants. At least a 10th of their population are overseas, many if not the majority are migrant workers.  There are about 9 Million Filipinos living and working abroad and more than 60% of them are temporary migrant workers who can be found in all continents of the world.  Mexican emigrants on the other hand are concentrated in the Unite States.  Mexico is unique for having 51 consular offices in the United States alone to serve around 10 million immigrants to the United States.

The consular services of these two countries are robust. They assist their nationals and protect them from human rights abuses as well as assist victims of human trafficking.  Apart from the traditional consular services of assisting distressed citizens, both countries have established innovative services to their citizen’s abroad. For example, Filipino diplomats provide reintegration programs such as skills training and educational programs in Filipino Migrant Workers Centers in order to prepare Filipino migrant workers in their return home. Mexican Consulates run Plazas Comunitarias where Mexicans can learn English, be given health care advice, and learn personal financial skills.

There are limits to any government’s capacity to assist its citizens beyond their national borders, and in other legal jurisdictions. Therefore, citizens have the shared responsibility to take precaution when they travel overseas. The risks related with travel can always be reduced by being more careful of those risks.  That is why it is also important for travelers to research the likelihood of risks as well as the laws of their destination Citizens are also advised to contact their family and friends of their travel plans, whereabouts, and condition. This is where the travel advisories of ministries of foreign affairs are particularly useful.  Travel insurance for tourists and similar insurance provided by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) for temporary migrant workers are also handy.

Conclusion

As people continue to move in a globalized and “flatter” world, there will be increasing need for consular service.   As more complex issues arise in travel and migration, more complex and responsive consular services are vital.  Consular service is emerging as an important task of foreign ministries due to international migration and the increase in the travel activities of citizens.  Consular service appeals to those who have strong commitment to public service, enjoys challenge, and are highly motivated.  So for those contemplating of becoming a foreign service officer, the consular service may provide a most rewarding experience.

Related articles

Perpetuation of International Migration: Theories (part 2)

Perpetuation of International Migration: Theories (part 2)

by Juan “Jed”  E.  Dayang, Jr

International migration will continue to increase.  The incentives on the supply side of international migration flows are particularly strong.  High wage differentials across countries and  cheaper transportation and communication costs have increased incentives for people to move.

According to migration experts Facchini  and Mayda, migration flows are relatively small in scale compared with other dimensions of globalization—such as trade and capital flow.  Why is this so?  Restrictive migration policies of host countries is the answer. However, these policies can not stop  irregular migration as the disequilibrium between supply and demand grows.

The following theories provide an explanation  why international migration perpetuates:

Network Theory

The networks of home country association and family networks, friends and other linkages in host countries make migration easier. Networks, which are sources of information, lower the risk of migration substantially. Family members abroad provide information and financial support to their relatives in their native countries which lowers financial as well as psychological costs of migration.

The first generation of migrants are risk-takers but subsequent migration becomes easier. Networks are extremely important in liberal democracies where policies favour family reunions. Networks provide social capital and contribute to the decline of costs and risk as it expands. With networks, migration flows become less selective and thus, increase the likelihood of greater need for consular assistance.

Cumulative Causation

The supply of migrants creates its own demand. As more migrants do the jobs that are not filled up by locals, the demand for them increases. For instance, the supply of Filipino domestic helpers in Singapore and Hong Kong to expatriates and locals has increased their demand for other households to hire helpers to do child care or domestic chores usually done by wives.

Relative deprivation theory

This theory states that  it is not just that even people who are not really impoverished migrate abroad to compensate for the relative deprivation they feel from a neighbour whose material wealth increased when one family member migrates for work—a case of “keeping up with the Joneses”. One is motivated to migrate seeing that his neighbour is better off because of the remittances. Such awareness  makes him feel poorer. These factors create a culture of migration in communities and eventually takes a life of its own. In the Philippines, the culture of migration persists.

Migration System Theory

Migration flows acquire stability and structure overtime. What was intended to be a temporary labour migration for Filipinos in the 70s to decrease unemployment and increase foreign currency inflows to the country has become permanent.

Due to the requirement of protecting and regulating labour migration, the Philippine government has established the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) to manage and regulate recruitment. It has also established the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and increased the number of Labour Attaches posted overseas.

Bilateral labour agreements and international cooperation in labour migration have made international migration more stable and institutionalized by establishing core destinations from single and multiple sources. Saudi Arabia is one example of a core destination for Filipino construction workers and engineers in the 70s and for healthcare workers in the 2000s.

Unilateral cooperation such as South Korea’s Employment Permit System has stabilized labour migration from specific countries such as the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Mongolia, etc.

Lobby groups and public opinion

Both pro and anti-immigration interest groups play a statistically significant and economically relevant role in shaping migration across sectors. Barriers to migration are higher in sectors where (anti-immigration) labour unions are significant in numbers and influence and lower in those sectors in which (pro-immigration) business lobbies more powerful.

Institutional theory

A range of institutions benefits from international migration including  capitalists and entrepreneurs who make a profit from migration, humanitarian groups (some of them with clout), and recruiters who engage in legal migration. Underground, smugglers and traffickers also make a lucrative profit from migration.

Douglas Massey argued that migration would continue regardless of the restrictions imposed by host countries and that low migration rates were artificial. He also added that the abovementioned theories indicate that migration flows would be unabated and that countries of origin were not working on restricting migration; instead labour-sending countries helped perpetuate it by making it easier for their citizens to migrate.

As international migration continues to grow, Ministries of Foreign Affairs (MFAs) as well as diplomatic and consular officials need to adapt to the demands of its citizens overseas.   In future  blog feeds, I will discuss why consular affairs has become a core task of MFAs.

References

Lecture by Prof. Susan Martin attended by author in the course entitled “Global Trends in International Migration” organized by the  Institute for the Study of International Migration of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University from 19-22 October 2010 in Washington D.C.

Joaquin Arango Douglas S. Massey, Graeme Hugo, Ali Kouaouci, Adela Pellegrino,J. Edward Taylor, “Theories of International Migration: A Review and Appraisal,” Population and Development Review 19, no. 3 (1993).

Giovanni Facchini and Anna Maria Mayda, “From Attitudes Towards Immigration to Immigration Policy Outcomes: Does Public Opinion Rule?,” VOX, no. 21 June 2008 (2008), http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/1247.

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