Saturday, 4 July 2009

Philippine overseas workers up 15% in 2008

Michael Paolo T. Jamias

The number of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who worked abroad rose 14.6% to 2.002 million last year from 1.747 million in 2007, data released on Friday by the National Statistics Office (NSO) shows.

Total remittance sent by these workers rose nearly a third (29%) to P141.904 billion from P109.806 billion.

Overseas contract workers (OCWs), or those with existing work contracts abroad, comprised 94% at 1.9 million of total OFWs, up 16.6% from the 1.6 million OCWs recorded in 2007.

A little more than a third (32.4%) of the OFWs were laborers and unskilled workers, which include domestic helpers, cleaners and manufacturing laborers. Those who worked in trade and related fields comprised 15.7%; service workers and shop and market sales workers, 14.3%; and plant and machine operators and assemblers, 13.0%.

Professionals accounted for 9.6%; technicians, 6.2%; as well as government officials, corporate executives, managers and supervisors, 2.7%.

OFWs from the Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon, or Calabarzon, region accounted for 18.4%, Central Luzon, 14.5%; and the National Capital Region 14.0% — meaning that Metro Manila and surrounding regions made up almost half of the total number of OFWs.

On the other hand, Caraga reported the smallest share of OFWs at 1.2%, while the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, one of the country’s poorest, accounted for just 3.3%.

An NSO statement accompanying the data said that one out of five (20.4%) OFWs worked in Saudi Arabia, while one in every seven worked in the United Arab Emirates. Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Qatar and Taiwan were also popular destinations of OFWs. OFWs who worked in Europe comprised 9.4%, while those who worked in North and South America accounted for 8.4%.

Of the total cash remittances sent, 76.1% were coursed through banks and 11.8% through door-to-door services.

OFWs working in Asia, comprising 78.2% of all OFWs, sent the biggest cash remittance of P69.9 billion.

Among occupation groups, OFWs working as laborers or unskilled workers posted the highest cash remittance of P19.5 billion.

Philippine Overseas Employment Administration chief Jennifer J. Manalili said in a phone interview on Friday that her agency is "closely monitoring the situation [since] many countries are experiencing varying degrees of financial crisis" that has led their governments to "limit the number of foreign workers admitted to their territories."

University of Asia and the Pacific economist Victor A. Abola said OFW deployment should continue to grow despite the global economic slowdown. "I think, in absolute numbers, there will still be an increase," he said in a phone interview on Friday.

But Mr. Abola expects OFW remittances to be flat this year as well as next year, though "it could go down slightly by no more than 2%-3% [in 2010]."

He explained there is usually a "one-year lag" before remittances reflect the slowdown in the global market, which is expected to be hit hard this year.

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