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  1 The Philippines: Beyond Labor Migration, Toward Development and (Possibly) Return Maruja M.B. Asis Migration Policy Institute (1) In the Philippines, a deeply rooted and pervasive culture of migration has made moving abroad common, acceptable — even desirable — as an option or strategy for a better life. For decades, sizeable numbers of Filipinos have left home in search of permanent settlement or temporary work overseas, trends long attributed to the fragile economy (and exacerbated by frequent natural disasters). Today, more than 10 million Filipinos — or about 10 percent of the population — are working and/or living abroad. While a markedly improved economic situation in recent years has not diminished the outflows, it has allowed the country to move beyond its longstanding labor migration policy to incorporate migration into long-term development planning and strengthen the return and reintegration of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). (2) When the Philippines launched an overseas employment program in the 1970s, the thrust was finding labor markets: The state not only promoted Filipino workers to the oil-rich but labor-short Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, it also sold these uncharted Middle East destinations to Filipinos. By the latter half of the 1970s, as deployment and competition with other srcin countries increased, surfacing labor migration problems (including poor working conditions and abuse by employers) prompted the government to address migrant welfare and protection. As destinations diversified and women joined the labor migration flows, the protection aspect assumed more importance. (3) The government subsequently developed a number of institutions, laws, and policies aimed at enhancing the protection of OFWs and their families, spurred on by civil-society advocacy. This dual approach of facilitation and protection contributed to making the Philippines a major source country of workers and talent for the global labor market, while also providing protection to OFWs. The “success” of th is approach, however, may have trapped the Philippines into complacency: Large, steady flows of remittances have become the country’s lifeline. The Philippines ranks third after India and China as major recipients of remittances. In 2016, the country received US $26.9 billion in money transfers, according to the Central Bank of the Philippines. There are concerns that reliance on remittances may have delayed the implementation of needed reforms. (4) Recent attempts to link migration policies with development policies demonstrate a remarkable shift in governance in the Philippines, earning positive reviews from the international community. After several boom-and-bust decades, in the 2000s the Philippine economy entered a period of impressive growth: Between 2011 and 2016, gross domestic product (GDP) grew by an average of approximately 6 percent yearly, and the economy proved resilient through political crises and transitions. Nonetheless, the positive economic news has not slowed or halted emigration. This is likely because Filipinos have more resources to migrate, and though the economy has grown, unemployment has yet to be tempered. Thus, sustainable development that provides decent work opportunities continues to elude the Philippines. This country profile examines the evolution of migration policymaking and trends over the past several decades and through the present administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. Background: The Centrality of the United States in Early Filipino Migration (5) After more than three centuries of Spanish colonial rule, the Philippines became a U.S. territory as a result of the Spanish-American War in 1898. For much of the 20th century, international migration for Filipinos meant moving to the United States and its Pacific territories. (6) The first batch of Filipino workers arrived in Hawaii on December 20, 1906 to work on sugarcane and pineapple plantations. More workers, mostly single men, followed; others left Hawaii to work in agriculture in California, Oregon, and Washington, or the salmon canneries of Alaska. On the mainland, low-wage service work in the cities provided income between agricultural seasons or when other jobs were not available. Some 4,000 Filipinos were  2 employed in the merchant marine, but this employment possibility ceased with the Merchant Marine Act of 1936 requiring the crew of U.S. flag vessels to be at least 90 percent American citizens. Box 1. Definitions Overseas Filipinos is the term encompassing all Filipino migrants, whether permanent or temporary, legal or unauthorized. Overseas Filipino Workers, or OFWs, represent a subset of Overseas Filipinos, and are temporary migrants. The OFW term is commonly used, a further sign of the pervasive role that labor migration occupies in Philippine society. The Commission on Filipinos Overseas includes the following categories of migrants in its stock estimates: Permanent Migrants - Filipino immigrants and legal permanent residents abroad, Filipino spouses of foreign nationals, Filipinos naturalized in their host country, Filipino dual citizens, and their descendants. Temporary Migrants  –  Filipinos whose stay overseas, while regular and properly documented, is temporary, owing to the employment-related nature of their status in their host country. Include land-based and sea-based Filipino workers, intracompany transferees, students, trainees, entrepreneurs, businessmen, traders, and others whose stay abroad is six month or more, and their accompanying dependents. Irregular Migrants - Filipinos who are not properly documented or without valid residence or work permits, or who may be overstaying their visa. (7) Estimates place the number of Filipino workers coming to the United States, chiefly to Hawaii, between 1906 and 1934 at 120,000 to 150,000. A small number of scholars, known as pensionados, also migrated to the United States before the 1920s. They were typically either sponsored by the U.S. government or by missionary-related programs. Some returned and assumed important positions in Filipino society, while others remained in the United States. (8) Because the Philippines was a U.S. colony, the movement of Filipinos to the United States was considered internal migration. As U.S. nationals, Filipinos could enter and leave the country freely, but could not access citizenship. It was not until the passage of the 1934 Tydings-McDuffie Law, which provided for the granting of Philippine independence within ten years, that the Philippines became subject to immigration quotas, and Filipinos in the United States became aliens. The law limited the Philippines to 50 visas per year, and migration dropped off dramatically. But even so, there was an exception clause: In case of a labor shortage, the governor of Hawaii was authorized to hire Filipino workers. World War II intervened and further migration to the United States stalled, until the Philippines became independent in July 1946. (9) Following passage of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which struck down nationality-based restrictions, Filipino immigration grew and diversified. Other countries of settlement also dismantled their pro-European immigration policies in the 1970s, paving the way for Filipinos to enter Canada, Australia, and New Zealand under family- or skills-based provisions. The Philippines eventually became one of the top ten srcin countries in these traditional immigration destinations. (10) This permanent migration, however, was overshadowed by the larger and thornier temporary labor migration that started in the 1970s. Although the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) estimates the stock of permanent migrants (which includes Filipinos born overseas; see Box 1) is larger than that of temporary migrants, the country’s migration policies have focused on the significant annual outflows of temporary workers, their distribution throughout the world, and the myriad related issues.  3 Becoming a Source Country of Workers (11) A number of factors led to the ascent of the Philippines as a major labor exporter in Asia and worldwide. When large-scale labor emigration began in the 1970s, the push factors — already quite strong — were worsened by the 1973 oil crisis. Economic gains could not keep pace with population growth, and the country was hard pressed to provide jobs and decent wages while grappling with severe balance of payment problems. (12) At the same time, the GCC countries needed workers to realize their ambitious infrastructure projects. With supply and demand converging, the Philippines was ripe for large-scale labor migration, an opportunity the government of Ferdinand Marcos recognized. In 1974, the Labor Code of the Philippines established the framework for what became the government's overseas employment program. (13) The Philippines' foray into organized international labor migration was supposed to be temporary, lasting only until the country recovered from its economic problems. However, the ongoing demand for workers in the GCC countries and the opening of new labor markets in other regions, especially in East and Southeast Asia, fueled further migration. On the supply side, the push factors did not abate. Lack of sustained economic development, political instability, unabated population growth, persistent unemployment, and low wages continued to compel people to head abroad. (14) The flow of OFWs, numbering a few thousand per year in the early 1970s, surged past 1 million beginning in 2006 (see Figure 1). In 2015 alone, more than 1,844,000 Filipinos worked abroad. The data on deployed workers include seafarers, who account for 20 to22 percent of all OFWs every year. Filipinos dominate the global seafaring industry, accounting for 25 to 30 percent of the world's seafarers. Figure 1. Annual Deployment of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), 1975-2015 Source: Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), “Compendium of OFW Statistics,” accessed July 6, 2017, available online.  4 (15) As of December 2013, the stock of overseas Filipinos totaled slightly more than 10 million, including some 4.9 million permanent settlers (64 percent of whom are in the United States), about 4.2 million temporary migrants (mostly labor migrants, or OFWs, with Saudi Arabia hosting close to 1 million), and an estimated 1.2 million unauthorized migrants worldwide (primarily in Malaysia and the United States). (16) Filipinos are present in the far reaches of the globe, mostly because of work. Although the destinations of OFWs have diversified, to this day, the Middle East still receives the largest share, with 64 percent heading to the region in 2015, followed by Asia with 28 percent (see Figure 2). In 2015, six of the top ten destinations for both new hires and rehires were in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain), and the remainder were in Asia (Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Malaysia). Figure 2. Deployment of Land-Based OFWs by Region, 2015 Source: POEA, “Compendium of OFW Statistics.”  (17) Filipino women are very visible in international migration. They not only compose the majority of permanent settlers, i.e., as part of family migration, but are as prominent as men in labor migration. In fact, since 1992, females have generally outnumbered men among the newly hired land-based workers legally deployed every year. In 2015, domestic work was the top occupation for new hires, at 38 percent. (18) While the demand for domestic workers has long been the main driver of female migration from the Philippines and Asia in general, until 2005, the demand for entertainers, mostly in Japan, also fueled this migration. With work in the domestic and entertainment sectors unprotected and prone to abuse, the safety and well-being of women migrants became a significant concern. Entertainer migration was particularly controversial and stigmatized because of perceptions that women ended up in the sex industry. From a deployment to Japan of tens of thousands of Filipino entertainers annually, the numbers dropped sharply in 2005 following Japan’s decision to adopt more stringent requirements for foreign entertainers. Likewise, the significance of domestic worker migration was a major push for the Philippines to ratify the 2011 Convention on Domestic Workers, which recognizes domestic work as labor that must be protected.
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