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Overseas Filipinos are an asset back home

Rough estimates put the number of Filipinos working overseas at 10m. From construction workers to domestic workers, young Filipino men and women go to work overseas in large numbers to escape domestic unemployment, low wages and limited opportunities. From domestic workers in Angola to construction workers in Japan, hotel staff in China and service workers in UAE, overseas Filipino workers have fanned out to different parts of the world. Each year about 19,000 nurses, certified and fresh from language training, are deployed to hospitals around the world. Educational institutions and vocational schools in the Philippines funnel students into industries likeliest to get them a job abroad. Merchant marine academies, like nursing schools, churn out thousands of graduates yearly. There are several government agencies that deal with the migration of registered workers, negotiate international labour terms, and rescue workers when a diplomatic row flares up or a war breaks out.

Personal remittances or the money sent home by overseas Filipinos amounted to US$2.8 BN in February 2021 up by 5.3% year on year from US$ 2.7BN for the month of Feb 2020 (which was a decrease by 5.2% year-on-year compared to 2019).The Asian Development Bank has projected the remittances from overseas Filipino workers, equivalent to 9% of GDP, to slow due to COVID-19. Large flows of remittances come from the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, which collectively supply 70% of all remittances, the ADB said in a report released in April 2020.

The relatively upbeat data come despite the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration reporting that the number of deployed overseas foreign workers dropped by 74.5% in 2020 to 549,841—the lowest number since 1990. While this is largely attributable to the negative effects of the coronavirus (Covid‑19) pandemic on host countries and quarantine regimes that impeded outbound travel from the Philippines, remittance inflows have remained resilient, as overseas workers remitted a higher share of their earnings. The strength of the peso and acceleration of inflation in the Philippines mean that émigrés have to remit more US dollars to achieve the same purchasing power for their families. The Economist Intelligence Unit continues to expect remittance inflows to return to slight growth of around 2% this year, from a decline of 0.8% in 2020, as overseas workers will find it difficult to remit a significant part of their income, having dug deep during the year-long pandemic.

Nearly 40,000 overseas Filipino workers, both sea-based and land-based, have been repatriated due to the pandemic, data from the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) shows.


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