From 2014 to 2017 a research team from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and Asian Institute of Management (AIM) followed 2,000 first-time Filipino domestic workers (DWs) who went to work in Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia, and the families they left behind.
All the overseas Filipino workers (OFW) have to take the Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar (PDOs). The objective of the study was to test the impact of new modules for the PDOS, as well as to gain insights on how domestic workers and their families adjust to having a family member become an OFW.
The PDOS program has been running since 1983 by OWWA and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, and this marks the first time that OWWA partnered with an academic institution to do a long-term evidence-based impact evaluation of the program.
For AIM, on the other hand, the research is in line with its focus on business and society, and the study was an opportunity to bring theories and rigorous statistical techniques to a sector that is very important for the country, namely the OFWs.
Together, an OWWA-AIM research team experimented with four new twists on the basic PDOS modules. The first was a new financial literacy module using a comic-book format to teach four basic simple messages that are critical to savings.
The second experiment was to send savings reminders every 15 days to the OFWs, and the third was using the experience directly from “ex-abroads” in setting expectations of first-time DWs.
The fourth experiment was a gift of dried mangoes that the workers or DW were instructed to give to their employer to make a good first impression upon arrival in Hong Kong or Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The latter draws on the theories of behavioral economics that are increasingly being used to elicit desired behavior without heavy direction.
Some 2,000 domestic workers were randomly assigned to a comparison group and a project group. The DWs and their families were interviewed just prior to their departure, and again after eight months on the job and finally at the end of the work contract.
The project has gathered a large amount of data on domestic workers, including communications, remittances, savings and expenditure decisions, and attitudes. The findings and their implications for policy were presented at a conference in AIM on October 24, which was attended by government representatives, migrant groups, non-governmental organizations (NGO) and academe.
The study was financed by a grant to AIM from 3ie, an international grant-making NGO promoting evidence-based development policies and program and the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation.
The main funders of 3ie are the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UKaid and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.