OFWs come home for high paying jobs

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MANILA, Philippines—While many continue to seek greener pastures abroad, some overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are going against the tide to take up job offers at home.

One such OFW is Malaysia-based computer whiz Arlene Teodoro who packed his bags and flew home to the Philippines this year.

Forced to leave his family and friends in 2008 in search of a decent job overseas, the 35-year-old bachelor is back for good because his skills are suddenly in big demand amid a business process outsourcing boom.

“Nothing compares to being back in the Philippines,” said Teodoro, who was part of a 30-strong computer science class at a Manila university in the early 1990s, most of whose members also went overseas to find work.

“When I was working abroad, I’d use up all my vacation leaves to attend family events and reconnect with my family,” he said.

Teodoro now earns about P130,000 a month as a business intelligence analyst for a US data mining firm, which uses powerful software to predict such key measures as future sales and trends for clients.

Big multinationals from aircraft manufacturers to retail chains are increasingly using these sophisticated tools, and the Philippines and India offer the most cost-efficient locales for such labor-intensive tasks, he said.

The main advantage of the two countries is their large English-speaking populations.

Data mining is just a small part of the outsourcing phenomenon in the Philippines that has emerged from virtually nothing 10 years ago to become one of the country’s most important economic planks and sources of jobs.

The Philippines has for decades suffered an exodus of people who have headed overseas to escape dire economic conditions, with one quarter of the population currently living on a dollar a day or less.

Nine million, or 10 percent of all Filipinos, now live overseas, performing low-skilled jobs such as maids and sailors, but also working as nurses, engineers and IT specialists.

Modern-day heroes

OFWs sent $18.17 billion back to the Philippines last year, equivalent to 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), and their importance to the nation is such that they have earned the nickname: “mga bagong bayani,” or “modern-day heroes.”

The exodus, however, has also led to a massive brain drain and caused social disruption as families are torn apart, with one or both parents going overseas and leaving their children at home with relatives.

But now the rise of outsourcing is giving many Filipinos a chance to stay home.

The outsourcing workforce grew about 10 percent this year to 600,000, and is expected to expand to 900,000 employees by 2016, according to the Business Processing Association of the Philippines.

More than 60 percent of the outsourcing jobs are in call centers with Filipinos fielding telephone inquiries from or selling products to customers across the globe.

P20,000 a month

Although these employees are the lowest-paid in the sector, an entry-level call center job still pays between P14,000-P20,000 a month.

This is roughly equivalent to what a Filipino maid would typically earn in a wealthier Asian country such as Singapore, or a seaman’s starting salary in the global merchant fleet.

The local outsourcing industry is also increasingly attracting work for higher-paying skills such as data warehousing, accounting and medical transcription, as well as creative work ranging from webpage design to animation and video games.

“Before, it was the call center boom in the Philippines, but now it’s more of really specialized skills,” Teodoro said.

The Philippines has risen to have the second biggest outsourcing sector in the world behind India partly because it has a huge English-language workforce.

Filipino workers are also particularly prized in the United States and other Western nations because of their familiarity with their culture, a legacy of the Philippines’ history as a former US colony.

A pleasant experience

“We have had expats telling us that working with Filipino teams is a very pleasantly unique experience, which they have not had elsewhere in the world,” said Gillian Joyce Virata, a senior executive director of the industry association.

The government has also sought to amplify the country’s natural advantages by offering significant tax breaks for outsourcing firms and easing labor laws, such as one that used to bar women from working past midnight.

The industry association said outsourcing would generate revenues of $11 billion this year, up from $8.9 billion in 2010, and continue to grow by at least 15 percent annually to hit $20 billion by 2016.

This would place the outsourcing industry’s revenues almost on a level with the money sent home by overseas workers.

‘A very big support’

“This industry has provided a very big support to the economic environment of the Philippines in the past decade,” Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo told an outsourcing forum recently.

Apart from the direct benefits of employing people, Domingo credited the industry with a wide range of other knock-on effects such as increased car sales and the explosion of 24-hour convenience stores.

Outsourcing has also begun to transform Metro Manila’s skyline, with skyscrapers rising to cater to big foreign banks and technology companies that have set up shop with workforces that run into the tens of thousands.

“The contribution of this industry cannot be overstated,” Domingo said.

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of INQUIRER.net. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_YDIC7AUBOT2GBPNFUYB5VRUEYY Jackson

    P130k/month sounds good.  But I would rather stay where I am.  I left for a totally different reason and not because of cash.  The world is out here not there so….

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KCMGRMI3HLLKWHYNUSHWLO3GMI ticoy

    Nine million, or 10 percent of all Filipinos, now live overseas,
    performing low-skilled jobs such as maids and sailors, but also working
    as nurses, engineers and IT specialists. – Ouch, that “performing low-skilled jobs” seems to cause us a sting. Is this is how you really look at us? Do you know how it is to be cleaning other’s people house? taking care of their children? working down there at the machine room? navigating the seas? Is that a just “low skill job” to you? I can’t believe this.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KCMGRMI3HLLKWHYNUSHWLO3GMI ticoy

    Call center staff still stay away from their homes as most of them comes from other places. Most also are working graveyard shift, they are still not home in the evening and when the next day comes, they are all asleep and taking rest. Yes they stay home, to rest, and when they woke up, probably they will just prepare to work again.

  • http://twitter.com/arlchoi Arl Ellaga

    Correction Seaman starting salary as deck Cadet is much bigger than 20,000,, is a high skilled and demand job than nurses today  , it requires 4 years of study and 1 year apprenticeship to go abroad and a lot of training’s, Piloting the Ship all around the world, it cannot be compared to Someone cleaning your dishes,,,stupid…

  • roy

    Teodoro, kaya ka umuwi sa pinas kasi kahit ilang taon kapa magtrabaho sa Malaysia hindi ka maging Permanent Resident o Malaysian Citizen at saka muslim country ang malaysia at hindi equal emloyer opportuntity. Mas ok nalang kong sa Singapore ka. Kung ako sa iyo hindi uuwi sa pinas kundi hanap ng trabaho sa Australia/US/Canada/UK/New zealand kasi mas maganda dun para sa may pamilya kasi libre lahat kahit manganganak ka dun ang anak mo maging Citizen kaagad. KOng sa pinas ka magtrabaho yung anak mo ay hanap parin ng trabaho sa abroad

  • roy

    Kong si Teodoro may sahod 130T/month yung mga low profile worker sa company nila ay nagsasahod lang ng 10Tpesos/month bawasan pa sa tax,sss,philhealth patay tayo nyan hehehe

  • Ricci Santiago

    i doubt this one. ask everyone especially an ex-OFW if they are getting a high salary sa Pinas.
    taxes pa lang eh talo ka na eh. bayad sa kuryente, tubig, presyo ng pagkain, amelyar sa bahay.. the list goes on.

    call center is still not a ‘career oriented industry’ that contributes to nation building. we became cheap and docile labor if we work for these companies…

    nakaka bobo kung alam niyo lang.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TAFVA5LSGQ32CVNIPT5DYIKLEY Dan

    This is temporary. In a year or two he will be back looking for job overseas.

    Why? Because his salary is too high. Inggeterong Filipino in the company will gang up against him or the company management itself will make their case and use PH standard pay.

    This has been the norm for all OFW I know that return home to work in BPO because the company promise them the salary they received overseas but working in PH. In a year or two they are contacting me to help them get a job here overseas because their salary was converted to PH standard.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OSPLKSPHZHKEVAMNJQQV4GDGAQ ely

    WORK IN THE PHILS.??? EXCHANGE OF WORK ABROAD???

    NO WAY!!! TAXES GOING TO CORRUPTION…

    ASK FILIPINO PEOPLE PAYING TAXES! IF THEY FELT WHERE THERE TAXES GOING…

  • Anonymous

    This story is very misleading, In all likelihood Teodoro was already under contract with his company and was just assigned here in the Philippines. It never said that he was already living in the Philippines before he got the job.

    The only reason that multinational companies are here doing business is because of our cheap labor cost. The minute this cost go up, then you will see an exodus of these companies.

    I don’t know what message they’re trying to give with this article. I hope they’re not trying to say that the Philippines is on the way to becoming a first world country now because it is far from it.

    • Anonymous

      CLEARLY MISLEADING .  Because it was written by clueless, oblivious, ignorant Philippine Journalist.

      They only cited one instance of OFW returning cannot tell us how many OFWs came back to take up high-paying jobs in the Philippines.

      Walang kwenta ang news reporting dito sa Pipinas !!!!  It’s intended and catered to low-intelligence filip-inos which happens to be 99.99999% of the population.

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