The Inbox

Dissecting the overseas Filipino population

Click on graph to view map of overseas Filipinos, where they are in the world.

By Cherry Joy Veniles, VERA Files

With almost four decades of sustained and large‐scale migration of Filipinos to foreign countries, the Philippines has emerged as one of the major migrant‐sending nations, next to China and India. But it has also fallen into the trap of calling every Filipino overseas an Overseas Filipino Worker or OFW, clouding the rich diversity of the overseas Filipino community.

The stock estimate of overseas Filipinos computed annually by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) shows 10.44 million Philippine-born Filipinos residing or working overseas in 2011.

But the aggregate, drawn from data of the CFO, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and the Department of Foreign Affairs, shows permanent migrants outnumbering overseas workers, although by a small but significant margin.

In 2011, permanent migrants numbered 4.86 million or 47 percent of overseas Filipinos, followed by temporary migrants, including overseas workers, numbering 4.51 million or 43 percent. The stock estimate recorded 1.07 million or 10 percent as irregular migrants.

Who overseas Filipinos are

Stock Estimate of Overseas Filipinos

Who are permanent, temporary and irregular migrants who are collectively referred to overseas Filipinos or OFs?

Permanent migrants include immigrants, dual citizens or legal permanent residents abroad, whose stay does not depend on work contracts. All permanent visa holders or spouses and partners of foreign nationals are required to register at the CFO before their departure.

Temporary migrants, on the other hand, are those whose stay overseas is employment-related and who are expected to return to the Philippines at the end of their work contracts. Although most temporary migrants are OFWs, they also include students, trainees, entrepreneurs, businessmen and their accompanying dependents whose stay abroad is six months or more.

It is the job of the POEA and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to regulate the recruitment industry for OFWs and provide necessary welfare support to returning OFWs, including those who are victims of recruitment violations, work-related accidents and other forms of emergency relief assistance.

Scholars under the exchange visitor program of the US government must register at the CFO prior to departure.

Filipinos who are not properly documented, without valid residence or work permits, or are overstaying in a foreign country—“TnTs” or “tago ng tago” in local parlance—count among the irregular migrants.

All together, they remitted $21.6 billion last year, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, and are a constant source of income for the Philippines.

Going beyond labor migration

The CFO stock estimate provides a good snapshot of the number of Filipinos overseas at any given time taking into consideration migrant flows.

This means that if 100 Filipino workers have completed their two-year contracts, and 150 others recently arrived on new contracts, while 10 others have overstayed their visas, the estimate would give a running number of Filipinos in a country at any given time.

But the tally also clearly shows that although the Philippines is internationally recognized for its vast and diverse human resources, providing more than 200 countries and territories worldwide with Filipino skills and talents, it has gone beyond labor migration.

Overseas Filipinos

Many leave the country other than for reasons of work. The reasons range from marriage migration to family reunification, from educational and business opportunities to professional advancement.

Permanent residents and dual citizens reserve the right to petition relatives in the Philippines. And with countries such as the US, Canada, Australia and most of Europe espousing the idea of family reunification, the number is expected to increase over time.

In countries such as Singapore and Saudi Arabia, skilled migrant workers have the option to bring along family members as part of the company’s remuneration package.

The top 10 destination countries of Filipinos are the US (33 percent), Saudi Arabia (15 percent), Canada (8 percent), United Arab Emirates (7 percent), Malaysia (5 percent), Australia (4 percent), Qatar (3 percent), Japan (2 percent), United Kingdom (2 percent) and Kuwait (2 percent).

An increasing number of OFWs from the Middle East have opted to apply for permanent skilled worker visas in countries such as Canada and Australia.

Japan’s policy on issuing visas to Nikkei-jins and their families has also contributed to the rising number of Filipinos in Japan despite the ban on the deployment of entertainers since 2005. Nikkeijin is a Japanese term for Japanese emigrants and their descendants who have established families and communities in recipient countries such as the Philippines.

Irregular migrants could be found mainly in the United States, Malaysia and Singapore. The large increase of irregular migrants in 2011 can be traced mainly to the 124 percent increase of irregular migrants in Malaysia, from 200,000 in 2010 to 447,590 in 2011, and the 67 percent increase in the US, from 156,000 in 2010 to 260,000 in 2011.

The number of Filipinos in Japan decreased by 69,476 or 24 percent mainly because of the natural calamities (earthquake and tsunami) which affected the country in March 2011. There was a 90 percent decrease in the number of Filipinos in Libya, from 27,349 to 2,724, and a 79 percent decrease of temporary migrants in Syria, from 13,869 to 2,890, mainly because of the Arab Spring.

Why the numbers matter

Understanding the stock estimate of overseas Filipinos gives a grasp of the realities of the program and policy environment the government and the private sector need to focus on in the interim.

If the DFA has closed down 11 consulates abroad, do the numbers justify the closing? If an Algeria attack Part 2 looms, is the government prepared to bring out all the OFWs there? If the European economic crisis continues for years, how many Filipinos and their families would be affected? If the government cannot get a consistently high voter registration and turnout for overseas absentee voting, can it map out in which areas it has succeeded in getting OFs to vote? If Malaysia has such staggering numbers for irregular migrants, what is the government doing?

And, more important, service providers such as remittance companies and banks and even local government units should certainly look at the numbers and say, “If 100,000 OFWs in Saudi are returning home after a two-year contract, what could we possibly offer them to make them stay in the Philippines?”

Whether immigrants, OFWs, TNTs or OFs, the numbers matter because they are, in the end, Filipino wherever they may be in the world.

(Cherry Joy Veniles has more than 10 years experience in Filipino migration and is the outgoing head of the Policy Planning and Research Division of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas. VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • PSEi breaches 8,000 level, but profit-taking pared most gains

    [caption id="attachment_257092" align="alignleft" width="150"] PSEi breaches 8,000 mark (PSE photo)[/caption] Local share prices surged on a slew of positive news from abroad, sending the Philippine Stock Exchange index past the 8,000 mark for the first time in history. BDO Unibank chief market strategist Jonathan Ravelas said the market rose due to “positive foreign equity portfolio flows and Fed Chair Yellen’s comments last week reiterating thethat the FOMC will be data dependent and …

  • Abandoned, hard-up husband hits P60-M Lotto pot

    Lady luck finally smiled on a hard-up tricycle driver, who endured being abandoned by his wife and seeing his children drop out of school before hitting the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) 6/45 Lotto jackpot worth nearly P60 million. PCSO acting chairman Jose Ferdinand M. Rojas II said the 29-year old lucky bettor hit the jackpot in the March 20 draw by correctly picking the winning numbers 02-03-14-22-29-30, which corresponds to the birth anniversary dates of his family members. …

  • News In Brief

    P/$ RATE CLOSES AT P44.80/$1The peso exchange rate closed  lower  at P44.80  to the US dollar yesterday at the Philippine Dealing & Exchange Corp. (PDEx) from P44.76  last  Friday.  The weighted average rate  unchanged  to  P44.796  from  P44.796.  Total volume amounted to $340.6 million.PUMP PRICES RAISED THIS WEEKThe pump prices of gasoline products will be raised by P1.10 per liter this week and diesel by P0.60 per liter, according to the oil companies. In an advisory to the media, the oil …

  • Need for modern national sports complex underscored

    Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara yesterday pushed for the construction of a “state-of-the-art” and “highly scientific sports complex” that can be used by the country’s national athletes for high-level training and total wellness program. Angara, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Games, Amusement and Sports, said the government should at least provide decent support to its athletes by providing them with ultramodern sports venues and facilities if it wants them to improve the country’s …

  • Makati mayor slams PNP’s role in mayoralty row

    Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin S. Binay denounced what he called apparent “misuse” of the Philippine National Police (PNP) force in the implementation of “selective suspension” of government officials not allied with the ruling party. Binay said he sympathizes with PNP personnel who often got caught in the middle of political conflicts, and called for an end to dirty political tactics. [caption id="attachment_257243" align="aligncenter" width="648"] THANKSGIVING MEAL – Vice President Jejomar C. …

  • EVAP warns of unscrupulous foreign electric vehicle suppliers

    The Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines  (EVAP) has cautioned local manufacturers and end users against unscrupulous foreign EV suppliers that are flocking into the domestic market. In a sunrise industry like the electric vehicle industry, EVAP stressed that choosing the right partner or supplier is a difficult task. “In the absence of any track record to review, an end user is at a loss as to how to choose a reliable and competent supplier,” said Atty. Bodie Pulido, EVAP …

  • Mayors laud bill increasing tax revenue allocation for LGUs

    The League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) is backing the proposed increase in the annual automatic allocations for local government units (LGUs) to boost inclusive growth with improved infrastructure, modernized agriculture and easier access to resources. Mayor Jess Burahan, secretary-general of the LMP said the empowerment of LGUs through added resources is a game changer in boosting inclusive growth. …

  • Freeze order against Jinggoy assets final; Bong guards face raps

    The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division has turned down with finality the plea of Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada to lift the freeze order on his properties amounting to more than P183 million. In a resolution released yesterday, the Fifth Division denied Estrada’s motion for reconsideration that sought that the court lift its writ of preliminary attachment/garnishment that was issued on February 17 that ordered the freeze of his properties. “As movant has not filed a counterbond and his arguments …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options