Wed, Apr 25, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Russia, China opening to Philippine workers

Bloomberg

Police yesterday take part during a protest simulation in preparation for the temporary closure of Boracay island in the Philippines. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the island closed to tourists for up to six months from tomorrow, after describing it as a “cesspool” tainted by raw sewage.

Photo: Reuters

Russia and China are just some of the promising destinations for Filipinos looking for jobs abroad, as the Philippines seeks to cut its reliance on the Middle East.

“Russia is opening their market for the first time to the Philippines,” Philippine Overseas Employment Administration head Bernard Olalia said in an interview in Manila. “They want a government-to-government deployment scheme, just like what we did with China.”

Russia is hiring skilled workers in construction and services, and China is asking the Philippines to send more than 2,000 English teachers this year, Olalia said on Friday last week, adding that the Czech Republic and San Marino are also negotiating labor deals.

For decades, the nation has relied on money sent home by millions of overseas workers to boost the economy and support the currency.

The funds — estimated by the World Bank to be US$33 billion last year — account for about 10 percent of GDP and are the nation’s largest source of foreign exchange after exports.

The Middle East remains the largest destination for land-based workers with more than 1 million deployed in 2016, 63 percent of the total, but the brutal killing of a domestic worker, whose body was found stuffed in a freezer in Kuwait, pushed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to order a deployment ban to the Arab state since February.

The Philippines is flexing its muscle to protect workers in other Middle Eastern nations amid cases of employer abuse, Olalia said, adding that a deployment ban to Saudi Arabia is not far-fetched unless better labor conditions are provided.

“We don’t mind advising the president to impose a deployment ban in countries where our Filipino workers are suffering so much, like Kuwait,” Olalia said.

The outlook for labor demand is strong and deployment will keep growing, Olalia said.

Aging populations are prompting Japan and South Korea to place more job orders for Philippine health workers, while Singapore is looking to hire in its technology sector.

The overseas employment agency’s policy is to focus on skilled workers and professionals, whose working conditions are significantly better, Olalia said.

The government is also offering workers a way home. Duterte’s US$180 billion infrastructure program aims to create 2 million jobs a year, primarily in construction.

Officials are planning “reverse job fairs” in the Middle East to lure Philippine carpenters, welders and pipe fitters back to the Philippines, Olalia said.

Even so, the agency said it would be tough to match the salaries abroad, which could be up to 300 percent higher than domestic wages.

“Compensation abroad is really higher than in the Philippine, but if you consider the social factor, the separation from family — that’s more important than financial gain,” Olalia said.

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