Overseas Filipino Workers

The term Overseas Filipino Workers or OFWs was officially adopted under the Ramos Administration to give recognition to millions of Filipinos who sacrifice by working in other countries out of a desire to earn better wages.

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The change in nomenclature from Overseas  Contract Workers - replacing the 'Contract' with 'Filipino' - honors these men and women by pledging the Philippine government's commitment to their welfare wherever they may be, and removing the pre-condition of possession of contract in order for Philippine consulates to come to their aid. Under the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 (Republic Act 8042), the government enacted a framework to promote the welfare of OFWs and identified concrete programs to support them in their difficulties abroad.

The Commission on Filipinos Overseas (2000) report that: "Of the 7.29 million overseas Filipinos, roughly 2.98 million are overseas Filipino workers, 2.37 million are permanent residents, and 1.94 million are classified as undocumented. The top 5 countries of destination for overseas Filipino workers are the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, and Italy. For the emigrants or permanent residents (including fiancées/spouses of foreign nationals), the United States of America, Canada, Australia, Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom are major destination countries."

According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the OFWs remitted some $1.96 billions during the first quarter of 2002 (Batino, 2002). This figure is up from last year's $1.43 billions. The Central Bank Governor, Rafael Buenaventura reportedly noted that this contribution by OFWs has helped stabilize the peso at around P49 to P50 to the US dollar. The remittances also contributed to the 4.9% GNP growth posted in the first quarter. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has called OFWs as a new breed of economic investors to the country.

Nothing comes to mind more quickly than OFWs to represent the travails of the Philippine economy and the enormity of the task of governing and looking after the welfare of millions of inhabitants, both inside and outside the archipelago. In the face of economic crisis and government inability to provide adequate protection all the time, OFWs show bravery by risking detachment from their families and lives in pursuit of decent wages. The country calls them heroes for their effort to prop up the economy through the continued inflow of hard currencies.  Each year, the country celebrates December as the Month of Overseas Filipino Workers.

 Other Facts and Figures on Overseas Filipino Workers
8 billion dollars average annual remittance of OFWS to the Philippines
over 7 million  estimated number of Filipinos worldwide
869.12 million pesos donations sent by overseas Filipino groups from 1990-1999
250 dollars average monthly salary of OFWs working as maids in Singapore
200,000 estimated number of Filipinos working as seafarers on board international vessels
Japan biggest employer of Filipino seafarers
3,722 OFWs who have signed up (June 2002) with Volunteer 12 as the Philippines' Tourism Ambassadors in other countries
Sources: OFW Philippines Online and Commission on Filipino Workers Overseas, 2000
Note: Data as of June 2002

Following are some of the current programs of the Arroyo government for the benefit of OFWs and the continued employment of Filipinos abroad:

bulletstrengthening bilateral relations with countries where OFWs work
bulletcampaigning for the ratification of the 1999 Convention on the Protection of Rights of All Migrant Workers
bulletcampaigning for the adoption of the UN Resolution for the protection of female migrant workers
bulletthe Absentee Voting Bill is proposed to allow OFWs to participate in Philippine elections
bulletestablishment of education centers for low-skilled OFWs in host countries
bulletissuance of fraud-proof certificates of proficiency and competency for Philippine mariners
bulleton-line identification system for legitimate contract workers to provide them with government services minus the volumes of paper work
Read the following article by Rina Jimenez-David,
on OFWs returning to teach
The Chance to be Called "Ma'am"

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