One Nation, Overseas
May 29, 2002 9:39 AM   Subscribe

One Nation, Overseas Wired Magazine on the Philippines as one of the world's leading labor exporters. Hearing the words "flexible, industrious, and frequently skilled" applied to Filipinos is certainly encouraging to us, but... (more inside)
posted by brownpau (8 comments total)
... but on the down side, the main reason for this national brain drain is that skilled Filipino workers are fleeing the deplorable socio-economic conditions back home. We're "temp agency to the world," as the article calls us, because quite frankly, none of the temps want to stay in-house.

Any Filipinos reading? Are there Filipinos in your place of work? What do they think?
posted by brownpau at 9:41 AM on May 29, 2002

One of my friends whom I met while working at a local redneck bar is Filipino. He has a computer science degree and specializes in Java development. He's currently working as a prep cook.

I know one obstacle that he faced was finding visa sponsorship. Our area is more manufacturing than tech, and after the market tanked, he kind of lost heart and just quit looking. I promised him when I got out of the place where we worked, I'd take him with me, but alas, I got out to take a temp administrative position.

He stays in the area because his sister, who is doing well in the health care field (that's a strong industry in our area) lives here.
posted by jennyb at 9:49 AM on May 29, 2002

... but on the down side, the main reason for this national brain drain is that skilled Filipino workers are fleeing the deplorable socio-economic conditions back home.

But this is only a "downside" if considered from a nationalistic point of view, which I think is one that will rapidly become much less prevalent and important. With so many people unemployed (and often virtually unemployable) in the world, it seems to me that success in transnational employment is a significant success.
posted by rushmc at 10:29 AM on May 29, 2002

Most of my extended family emigrated (mainly to the Bay Area) in the Marcos days or earlier and my immediate family has lived in San Francisco for three generations, so to the best of my knowledge very few if any of us are cranking out remittances back to the islands, unlike many folks who are working here to support families back home.

While I'm happy to see Filipinos "out in the world," it's important to note that many, many export workers find themselves in worrisome circumstances. It's good that there are Filipino "knowledge workers" participating in the world's IT, medical, and academic fields but they are the exception rather than the rule.

Export labor is a complex subject that touches many people in many different ways, both positively and negatively. It's hard to say it's a good or bad thing in and of itself. But it is worth pointing out that for some workers, particularly outside the US, it's simply trading one set of hardships for another.
posted by majick at 11:25 AM on May 29, 2002

Granted, majick, and yet presumably the hardships are judged to be less (or the compensations sufficient to offset them), as so many are choosing this option.
posted by rushmc at 12:55 PM on May 29, 2002

I certainly can't argue that, but it should be noted that at least in some cases the hardships exceed any reasonable expectation and are sometimes outright horrible. While you and I might understand that an employer may be abusive and that there's a long history of the maid abuse problem, eager workers heading overseas may not suspect how bad it can really be.
posted by majick at 1:36 PM on May 29, 2002

True, but I hesitate to infantilize them with the claim that they are incapable of acting in their own best interest. They are adults, and there are resources available to them to research the work and social environments into which they are choosing to go--including the feedback of their peers who have preceded them there. Obviously, no one can predict certain abuses...but that's true anywhere (though admittedly more prevalent in these situations).

The problems, where they exist, should be dealt with separately from the overarching issue of whether the system itself is beneficial to Filipinos and to the Philippines.
posted by rushmc at 5:44 PM on May 29, 2002

I used to teach in singapore (i'm from the uk), and was paid as an oversea's or visiting lecturer.

My colleague was much more experienced and talented than me, and was from the Philippines .. they paid him very differently, which wasn't fair as like me he was living away from his home country, had flown over and suffered all those relocation costs.

It was something I felt very guilty about as they did not view employing him as bringing in talent from overseas, but they did with me because I happened to be white and I suppose appealed to the vanity of certain parents who thought the quality of education I gave would be better.

Although migrant workers are the perfect way to level the international playing field a little. Knowledge from overseas is still subject to all those same prejudice.
posted by mrben at 5:46 PM on May 29, 2002

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