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Labor Immigration In The Philippines

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Emigration or global migration refers to the movement of human population from their home country to their desired destination. Typically, these emigrants are already in their age of venturing for better prospects and are willing to find better jobs in the global market. While emigration is considered to be a fulfilling dream to the worker, there are always consequences resulting from his/her transfer. Movement of workers from one country to another diminishes the human value produced by their origin country. Despite the loss suffered in the country, the productive labor force as well as migrants’ contributions through remittances are able to neutralize the loss. Since it is known for the fact that migrants are easily lured into the international job market and have already attained the needed experience for their jobs, migration proves to have a negative effect in the human capital and would later on lead to the phenomenon known as brain drain. At present, the number of skilled workers / professionals is increasing as well as their expectations of finding better prospects outside the country and catching up on the productive developments of global modernization and technological advancement. The problem arises on the composition of these workers, those of which are in their ages of youth and productivity, from which the labor force would benefit greatly through their skill sets.

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The Philippines, in particular has embedded migration in history long before, in every aspect in the society and has deeply led to a major blow in the country. By understanding the history of migration in the Philippines, the effects of migration can easily be identified and why people would opt to go abroad for better pastures.

The desire for migration began at the start of the American colonization, shortly after the signing of the Treaty of Paris. Filipino workers began travelling to Hawaii on December 20, 1906 as farmers of sugarcane and pineapple plantations. Following this voyage, many Filipino workers followed and those that remained in Hawaii went to the American Soil to have better prospects on agriculture. Some Filipinos have been able to work domestically if their preferred career on agriculture isn’t available. Within 1906-1934, almost 120,000 Filipino workers were said to have arrived in Hawaii. Students were even given the chance to migrate to the United States within the period given their affluence or any other organizational retreat. In these American years of colonization, this type of migration was only considered as internal migration since the movement of the population when from colony to colony until the passing of the Philippines Independence Act of 1934 which restricted the number of Filipinos migrating to the States. This, however, did not stop the governor in Hawaii to acquire Filipinos to work for them in case of a decrease in manpower. Even after the World War II has ended, around 12,000 Filipinos arrived to work in Hawaii for various jobs. Filipinos are also able to enter other countries such as New Zealand, Canada, and Australia after policy changes in immigration. This made Philippines to be one of the top 10 labor exporters internationally.

In 1970, the Philippines continue to send workers in Asia mainly due to the oil crisis which partly affected the economic progress and the inability of the government to give jobs to the Filipinos. As Gulf countries such as the Middle East yearn to acquire manpower for their various infrastructure progress, the Philippine government spearheaded by Ferdinand Marcos seized the opportunity using the government’s overseas employment program together with the passing of the Labor Code of the Philippines in 1974. What Marcos thought to be the temporary band aid solution for the economic adversities in the country actually led to more acquisition of workers to Gulf countries and even in several parts of East Asia. Migration also proved to be unstoppable as unfavorable political climate, rising unemployment, unstable economy, and increase in population in the country has made Filipinos think of seeking better opportunities abroad.

The constant supply of Filipino workers abroad thus led to the brain drain phenomenon wherein skilled professionals particularly in the fields of medicine, education and engineering were either recruited or convinced to move into a better working environment as to escape the adversities of their origin country. Demand for medical practitioners and nurses also continue to surge abroad in the succeeding decade. With the advent of modern technology and better communication, labor migration intensified on skilled professionals such as engineers, programmers, designers, etc. Then again, this proved that the passage of law by the Philippine government has paved way for Filipinos to feasibly migrate and be recruited by other countries in demand of labor power. Overseas Filipino Workers, particularly professionals, became prominent in the late nineties in terms of the cost and demand. Part of the reason is that host countries wanted to acquire workers with advanced skills and capabilities in their work place. For instance, most of the Filipino workers that went to the United States acquired tertiary education (college degrees) given that they already have enough experience to handle key positions. Filipino workers from ages 25-44 also prove to be significant in the labor force for they are already in their years of harnessing their experience through on-the-job trainings and others. Most of these workers may have already been part of the labor force and by doing so they have attained enough experience to move abroad. While there isn’t any standard of measuring the extent of damage done by brain drain in the Philippines, its effects prove to be significant given the value of the workers that leave their countries behind. Whereas the international labor market is able to procure these productive workers of their respective age groups and having attained higher degree of education, there is no doubt that the country has wasted most of its resources in order to produce exemplary graduates which would then end up contributing to the labor force of a foreign country.

Recently, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Balik Scientist Act or R.A. 11035 which provides enough assistance for Filipino professionals such as scientists and inventors in order to return home and contribute to the fields of research in the country. Numerous compensations would be given for them, for instance, tax exemptions, medical insurances, support by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). Although Senator Benigno Aquino IV, the author of the act, did state the need of investing for the field of research in the country, it still wouldn’t prevent the rise of many aspiring scientists to take their talents abroad rather than staying home.

This act was one of the many other bills that the government has proposed and enacted in order to convince skilled professionals to work for their home country rather than somewhere else; measures like these are considerably weak given that youth nowadays have access to the internet where finding a job has been made much easier and hassle-free. It would be impossible to change the mindset of the people since their responsibility lies within their families rather than their jobs or even for the benefit of the nation. What the country needs is a direction that would push its people towards the attainment of their goals and at the same time, develop their potentials that would lead to fruitful progress. In order to implement such solution, the government must inculcate humanist ethics as a guide to understand the value that the workers would give to the country.

Humanist ethics or humanism in other terms deals with the principle of life dependent solely on human beings. Supporters of this belief see the importance of human nature as the key in understanding the values that people would have to practice. Religion, for humanists, is not necessary in justifying the actions made by human beings. Whether it may be in the presence of supernatural beings such as God or any other religious beliefs, humanists stick to the principles that guide them to become human beings. By doing so, they value human independence and freedom, as most of the decisions they make would eventually lead to their own happiness. This freedom, however, does not necessarily benefit the entirety as most of the choices that they make would have unwanted consequences for the society. For instance, one would opt for male sexuality over their children – a harmless choice that cannot be intervened by authorities or other people. If only a few were to consider this preference, then there would be no problems. But if this preference becomes a human tradition for a single society, this is where the conflict arises. Cultures created by this phenomenon can be uncontrollable considering that people would want to be part of a trend without having fully understood the aftermath of this influence.

Humanists also understand the importance of human’s thirst for knowledge as they have the ability to reshape the world for today. Since only these beings possess the gifts of reason and past experiences, they are able to cherish the life endowed to them in humankind and fully develop their potentials. By attaining the tools needed in order to explore the world, humans also have the ability to comprehend ethics without the presence of any outside control. They may either act upon the interest of the many or achieve the happiness on their own. It is only a matter of time that they would also have to be responsible for the actions that they would partake.

Ever since international migration started in the Philippines, Filipinos became independent on attaining their own happiness. They do not rely on the influence of religion or any other belief that would constitute to the morality of their actions. They exhibit the qualities of what a human wants to be “understanding the world and exploring its conquests and fully developing their potentials to their achievable limit. What the American colonization had done for them is that Filipinos were bestowed with the gift of attaining unsurmountable happiness. By opening the doorways towards bountiful opportunities, Filipinos are able to exploit these graces and cater fully to the happiness in their accord. This event then became a tradition for the upcoming generations as they too wanted to invest in their acquired talents and provide happiness for themselves and their families. Since only little coercion has been made for Filipinos not to go abroad, they have the power to create their own destiny once they have the knowledge and skills to utilize on. Even if we were to look upon the history of the country particularly the heroes’ exploits and conquest towards freedom and independence of the country, Filipinos will still choose to work for other countries rather than their own. This goes to show how Filipinos only valued unity and nationalism when their freedom is threatened by external forces; once that threat becomes non-existent, they are able to pursue their own dreams and work for the supplication of happiness. This independence has led to a detrimental effect to the society and the nation since people would make decisions that would only benefit themselves rather than the collective good. By opening the doors to international waters, Filipinos would have another option to extend the happiness of their loved ones and escape whatever reality has granted to them in their homeland. Those that have remained may not have the resources to take their talents abroad, may not have the qualifications to compete in the market, and seldom, may have the talents but decided to work at the home country until the end. Given how information and technology has advanced over the century, Filipinos would never rule out the chance of working in their dream countries and earn enough money to make a desirable living.

The need for humanist ethics is substantial towards lessening if not curtailing the phenomenon of brain drain in the Philippines. By recognizing the desires and wishes of an ordinary Filipino, it is possible to turn their individual freedom to the society’s advantage. The Philippine government, in particular, should be the one responsible upholding the value of humanism in dealing with the loss of essential workers and professionals in the country. We cannot blame history for allowing the colonizers to enter the country and influence the workers to work for their nation; what they only did was adding more freedom for future workers to decide on. As political leaders of this country, they must understand the humanity instilled in their countrymen but more importantly, lead the nation towards a better progress. Since globalization has proven to be an unstoppable force in the acquisition of workers worldwide, the country should also participate in the competition of labor power. Countries such as the United States have the ability to procure workers since there are plenty of job openings for workers to get hired on. Provision of more jobs by the government can help in sizing up to the needs demanded by other foreign countries. Another factor to consider is the workplace in the country “Filipinos generally prefer favorable working conditions abroad since they are easily manageable and time-constraining. The need for better facilities and infrastructure in the country is necessary in order to increase the productivity of the labor force and attain better gains. Companies and employers should also play a role in requesting the government for technological resources that would modernize their working facilities and would better attract many unemployed workers. In an article in Business Mirror Editorial, The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England in Wales (ICAEW) stated in a report how countries such as China and India have been able to diminish the effects of brain drain since workers are willing to return to the country so long as the opportunity for their career exists despite having lesser salaries (2017). Communications must also be improved by the government in disseminating information on job hiring since it is easier to acquire workers locally if they have knowledge on present job opportunities beforehand. Through these modernizations, supplemental provisions and acts such as the Balik Scientist act would work given the proper conditions that would be exhibited in the country. Though it is still necessary to preserve the freedom of Filipino workers to have a third option of working abroad, it is important for the Filipino leaders of today to consider the future workers to reconsider other options for them to succeed in the growth of the nation.

At present, the government has shifted its focus on strengthening its security though the drug war and actively implementing the building of infrastructures in the country. As citizens of this country, our role is essentially vital towards the actions that the government would take. Given the prominence of the internet and social media, private citizens must actively participate in the request for jobs in the respective government agencies. Issues that have been pondered on by the government which are only detrimental to the progress of the nation must be condemned by the many given its legal and ethical basis. Companies, as stated earlier, must be active in innovating their working facilities and be provided by the government with subsidies that would later be compensated when the labor force has been remedied. It is always logical for the government to respond to the needs of the people given that the people have also taken part in voicing out their concerns. Since the country is still in the state of a democratic political system, the right towards freedom of speech must always be exercised by every private citizen if they wanted to change the country for the better. While the government is holding the herculean task of improving the work places of the country as well as the provision of opportunities for the people, it is important for the people to participate hand in hand in building the nation so as to provide equal opportunities and better living for every citizen of this nation.

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