Migration and Development

In the 1970s, President Ferdinand Marcos instituted a policy of migration as a temporary strategy to solve economic issues. Marco’s temporary solution to curb high unemployment and tackle foreign currency problems evolved in a long term migration policy intended to stimulate economic development. Today, the Philippine economy is kept afloat by the remittances of Overseas Filipino Workers. Close to ten per cent of the Philippine economy is reliant on the money sent home by OFWs, making it the single most important input of the Philippine economy

At present, the national economy is unable to provide enough jobs to sustain economic growth without labor emigration. Given the limited employment opportunities, migration becomes a necessity for Filipinos rather than a choice. Income from remittances provides opportunities for Filipino to allow children a better education, health care and livings standards. There is no doubt that Philippine labour migration has contributed to alleviating poverty. According to the World Bank; without labor migration poverty would have significantly increased. Moreover, the intellectual skill attained by migrants abroad may facilitate a transfer of technology. In economic terms, the income from OFWs increase the demand for goods and services, thereby stimulating the Philippine economy. Unfortunately, income is mostly used for consumption rather than investment. Remittances also provide a source of foreign currency, pivotal to maintaining a strong currency.

However, the immense reliance on migration led to the neglect of the national industry. While migration has been steadily increasing the manufacturing industry, agriculture and export industry has been declining. As these sectors are declining fewer jobs are available to Filipinos, leading to higher unemployment. Despite this, the economy has been growing due to increasing remittances. This phenomenon of this ‘’jobless growth’’ occurs when the growth in the economy is not accompanied with growth in jobs. While remittances boost the income of OFW families, the unemployed have little prospect of attaining employment resulting in extreme poverty and great disparity in income. A largely understated effect of outward migration is the phenomena of the brain-drain. Highly educated Filipinos are leaving the country to find better-paid jobs abroad. Unfortunately, the education of Filipino is often not recognized abroad. Hence, many highly educated Filipinos are underemployed in the country of destination.

Not only does outward migration affect the economy. The social cost of migration is considerable. Migration distances the migrants from their children, husbands, wives and family. Although the families are usually financially better off, the psychological and social burden of the children and family may outweigh the benefits. Is this form of economic growth an appropriate model for development and should the national development of the Philippines be shouldered by the OFWs and OFs?

An alternative development strategy is to create an environment that provides investment opportunities and job security. Such an environment would make migration a choice rather than a necessity. It would stimulate the growth of the national industry, boost national productivity and would contribute to real development and job growth. Investments in the biomedical industry, sustainable agriculture and tourism are only a few industries with great growth potential.

Global migration is an enduring phenomenon rather than a temporary economic solution. In the current economic situation migration is a necessity for many Filipinos. While economic development translated into employment opportunities will make migration a choice instead of necessity, those that migrate must be sufficiently protected. Unfortunately, protection mechanisms throughout the entire migration cycle, before the departure, in transit, in destination countries and after upon return are largely lacking.  Protection from the government of the Philippines and those abroad need further strengthening.