An Overseas Filipino is a person of Filipino origin who lives outside of the Philippines. This term applies to Filipinos who are both abroad indefinitely as citizens or permanent residents of a different country, and to those Filipino citizens abroad for a limited, definite period, such as on a work contract or a student. It can also include seamen and others who work outside the Philippines but are not residents, either permanent or temporary, of another country.
They are known by a variety of terms with slightly different and sometimes overlapping meanings. Overseas Filipino Workers or OFWs are Filipinos working abroad that are expected to return permanently either upon the expiration of a work contract or upon retirement. Balikbayans are Filipinos who have become citizens of another country and have returned to the Philippines for a temporary though extended visit. Global Filipino is a term of more recent vintage that less widely used.
In 2010, the Commission on Overseas Filipinos estimated that approximately 9.5 million Filipinos worked or resided abroad. This is about ten percent of the population figure of Overseas Filipino Workers The Commission on Filipinos Overseas estimates that 10% of the population of the Philippines or around 9 million people are working overseas as temporary workers at any given time. These migrants are identified as Overseas Filipino Workers, or OFWs.
It is important to note that there are 42% of these groups have emigrated permanently to other countries. OFWs differ because they are temporarily based overseas, and are usually sent overseas by an employment agency. Filipinos were deployed overseas as domestic workers, medical professionals, construction workers, maritime workers, and IT experts, amongst others (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration).
They are sent to countries across the world, including those in Europe, the Middle East, East Asia, Australia and North America. Many OFWs are employed in “3-D” jobs: dirty, difficult, and dangerous. Filipinos are often subjected to unfair working conditions, long hours, low pay, and human rights abuses.
They are often employed through unofficial channels, so are afraid to complain about any wrongdoing, as they will lose their jobs. Most of the money OFWs earn overseas is sent home as “remittances” to support their families. Remittances are sent directly to OFWs’ families, through official and unofficial channels. Families spend their received remittances on food, and improvements to their homes, but very little of the money is saved.
Families are dependent on the next round of remittances, and the entire amount of the remittance is usually spent. Although people who migrate overseas poor, they are not the poorest of the poor, as they have some money to help get themselves overseas. This means that migration and remittances are not a replacement for development, as the most vulnerable people in communities are unable to benefit from them.
OFWs reasons for working overseas include paying for medical bills for a sick relative, education for their children, and because there are simply no jobs in their local region. Female OFWs are younger than their male counterparts, with the 25-29 years old the most represented age group (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration). Mothers often leave their families to pay for their children’s education, leading to broken families.
For the last two decades, overseas placement has out placed new job generation in the country. Unlike the earlier groups of Filipino-American pensionados in the US who generally tended to assimilate either as professional middle class suburbanities or, as in the case of the second generation Filipino-Americans as ethnicized, hypernated Americans, present Overseas Filipino Workers rarely ever expect to remain permanent in their host country.
In fact, today’s thrust for Overseas Filipino Workers in the different regions around the world was already a strategic policy of the government to save a failed economy in the Philippines. Without their remittances, the country may already suffer the same Argentinean experience in South America because of our growing foreign debts.