Is it really poverty that drives Filipinos overseas?
Are overseas Filipino workers (OFW) being driven out of the country by poverty? Or is it just the latest opportunity and trend?
Over the years, poverty has been the common reason cited for the exodus of Filipinos out of the country: to “find work and sustain their needs as well as that of their families.”
Is this true? In recent years quite a number of studies have thrown more light on the matter.
Dr. Clement Camposano, a senior instructor and migration anthropologist from the University of Asia and the Pacific, said studies have shown that “although many countries are experiencing destitution, poverty is merely one of the factors and not the root cause of Filipino migration.”
He said that based on studies, those who work abroad are not all poor, or at least not the poorest of the poor. It takes a lot of money to prepare for overseas work.
Many OFWs are duped into forking over huge sums of money by recruiters. Many reach foreign lands heavily in debt.
In a way, OFWs are gamblers and risk-takers. They are drawn by the huge wage differential between local and foreign paychecks. They invest heavily to leave the country. They secure monies for placement and other processing fees to realize their dreams. They don’t give up easily, even though, at times, they fall prey to some illegal recruiters.
With all the monies that are tossed and spun in the process of migration, can we really say that our kababayan who search for so-called “greener pastures” are really the underprivileged?
Take the case of OFW Feliza Ibamit from Victoria, Laguna who appealed for help from Bantay OCW on August 18, 2010. She paid P270,000 as placement fee to recruiter Maria Novie Belludo who promised her employment in Italy. She waited for three years but was not deployed. After losing so much time following up her overseas placement, she sought assistance from Bantay OCW to get back her money.
Bantay OCW coordinated with the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG). It was reported that Beludo was in Rome at that time. Ibamit then filed a case against Beludo at the Regional Trial Court in Victoria, Laguna. After a series of hearings, Belludo’s sister, Maria Role Belludo, returned the full amount to Ibamit last December 23, 2010.
Regrettably, Ibamit signed a quit claim to withdraw any further case against the illegal recruiter and her sister.
Last March 5, 2011, Ibamit visited Radyo Inquirer to personally express her gratefulness to the program for the return of her money. She said she would use the money instead to support the education of her nieces and nephews.
According to Dr. Camposano, “whether we accept it or not, migration is innate to human beings… who are influenced by various cultures and their yearnings to discover those cultures by themselves.” Filipinos are preferred by many foreign employers. Aside from their diligence and passion for work, they have good fluency in both written and spoken English language.
Poverty is not the ultimate reason why they become OFWs. Going abroad is a personal decision. No one can force anyone to work abroad if there is no desire to do so.
Sad to say, some of our kababayan depart from the country although they are unskilled and ill-prepared. Some end up feeding themselves to the (loan) sharks, burying themselves in debt, drowning themselves in miseries, and living with loneliness.
Not all OFWs are driven by poverty. Some just want to be part of the latest trend. We all need to be better informed of the real situation abroad and what it really takes to benefit most from the OFW experience.
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