Report: Don’t rely too much on OFW ‘resilience’ this time

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REMITTANCE-RECEIVING countries like the Philippines cannot rely on the resilience that inflows from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) bring to the economy during the pandemic, according to a policy brief released by the Ateneo Center for Economic Research and Development (Acerd).

The paper, titled “Overseas Remittances: Saving the ‘Resilient’ Owners of this Philippine Lifeline,” said lockdowns imposed on various host countries have reduced the financial capability of OFWs.

It was written by Institute for Migration and Development Issues (IMDI) Executive Director Jeremaiah M. Opiniano and Acerd Director Alvin P. Ang.

This has caused many OFWs to be laid off from their jobs and forced tens of thousands to go home to the Philippines; while others may have suffered pay cuts and are forced to ride out the current crisis where they are—mostly in countries and territories where economies are in recession and local businesses can barely support jobs.

“The observation that overseas migrants can be resilient and can still send money during crisis situations may not hold water at this moment. Both migrants and their families back home are affected by these crises simultaneously,” Opiniano and Ang pointed out.

The authors said that as of May 21, more than 26,000 OFWs have been repatriated and hosted by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and more than P380 million has been spent for their quarantine.

Opiniano and Ang also said that based on government estimates, another 40,000 to as many as 50,000 OFWs would likely return to the Philippines by June.

To prevent more workers from going home, Opiniano and Ang said Philippine embassies worldwide should negotiate with host governments to retrain and reskill OFWs, which will still be needed after the pandemic.

They added that the embassies should also negotiate for reduced salaries. This would be a better option than laying off these workers since they will still need the manpower to recover from the pandemic.

“The government should call on sending countries and approach the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to work on a global arrangement to help manage the situations of migrant workers,” Opiniano and Ang said. “These events are not challenges that are unique to the Philippines.”

Earlier, Ang and Opiniano projected that some 300,000 to 400,000 OFWs will face job losses, lesser work days, pay cuts, lesser incomes and repatriations this year.

These are a result of the ongoing pandemic, of fluctuations of global oil prices, and of expected national and global recessions.

They said these economic disruptions will lead to lesser cash remittances from overseas Filipinos of anywhere from $3 billion to as much as $6 billion, the steepest decline in the country’s migration history.

Over a 45-year period, the authors said there were six occasions of lesser remittances year-on-year. The sharpest decline was in the year 2000, where $744 million less than the previous year was sent in.

Image credits: Nonie Reyes



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