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.")

Loading...

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.

  • AFP monitoring deployment of Chinese seaplanes in Spratlys
    AFP monitoring deployment of Chinese seaplanes in Spratlys

    The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is adopting a wait and see approach amid reports that China will soon deploy seaplanes to further strengthen its maritime claims in the disputed Spratlys. Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala, spokesman for the military and commander of the AFP Civil Relations Service, said they have yet to ascertain the real purpose behind China’s continuing aggressive moves in the region. “We will wait and see before coming up with an official stand,” Kakilala said when …

  • US eyes access to Phl bases in 8 locations
    US eyes access to Phl bases in 8 locations

    The United States has asked for access to Philippine military bases in eight locations to rotate troops, aircraft and ships as Washington shifts its forces to Asia and as China expands its military presence in the South China Sea. US Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in a speech in Arizona, has outlined Washington’s next phase in its Asia “pivot,” deploying its most sophisticated destroyers, bombers and fighters to the region. The Asia “pivot” has already seen US Marines rotating through the …

  • Washington bucks China’s aggressive actions
    Washington bucks China’s aggressive actions

    Short of condemning China’s aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea, a senior US military official said Washington does not support any act of coercion and bullying. “We don’t stand for coercion, bullying and aggressiveness,” said Brig. Gen. Christopher Mahoney, assistant US military director for  Phl-US Joint Balikatan Exercises 2015. At the sidelines of this year’s joint military exercises’ static aircraft display held at Clark Air Base in Pampanga, Mahoney told a media briefing that …

  • ‘Giving Bangsamoro police control is constitutional’
    ‘Giving Bangsamoro police control is constitutional’

    The proposed grant to the chief minister of the envisioned Bangsamoro region of operational control over police forces in the area is consistent with the Constitution, a senior administration lawmaker said yesterday. It is clear in the proposed BBL that the Bangsamoro police will be part of the Philippine National Police (PNP), while the Bangsamoro Regional Police Board (BRPB) will be part of the National Police Commission (Napolcom) and will carry out Napolcom’s mandate in the region,” he …

  • Noy off to KL for Asean meet
    Noy off to KL for Asean meet

    President Aquino will arrive here this afternoon with Manila hopeful of support from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to achieve peace and stability in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) as well as economic prosperity and inclusive growth among the people in the region. Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Jose Eduardo Malaya III said that with respect to the dramatic developments in the South China Sea, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman had called for the early …

  • Madrid Fusion Manila reignites Pinoy appetite for great food
    Madrid Fusion Manila reignites Pinoy appetite for great food

    After months of preparation and hard work from both the government and private sectors, the future of food is finally here in the country’s capital. Madrid Fusión Manila opened its doors on Friday to an international delegation who eagerly awaited the discussions of some of the most renowned and revered names in the culinary world. Madrid Fusión Manila is a historic gastronomic event marked by talks and exhibitions that showcases Spain and the Philippines’ shared cultural heritage, as well as …

  • Family receives execution order, visits Mary Jane
    Family receives execution order, visits Mary Jane

    As Philippine officials continue to plead for a stay in the execution of death convict Mary Jane Veloso, the Indonesian government has sent a notice to her family ordering her execution at an undisclosed date, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday. Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said Indonesian authorities also allowed Veloso’s family and her lawyers to visit her on Nebu Kambangan execution island. “The Prosecutor gave notice letter to the family of Mary Jane …

  • ‘Pinoys’ cheerful attitude backs tourism campaign’
    ‘Pinoys’ cheerful attitude backs tourism campaign’

    The 2015 World Happiness Report ranking the Philippines as 90th among 158 happiest countries is a validation of the government’s tourism campaign, “It’s more fun in the Philippines,” a Palace official said yesterday. The news did not come as a surprise as Filipinos are naturally cheerful, Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. of the Presidential Communications Operations Office said. …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options