Filipino Expat Workers Younger, Better Educated than Homeland's Workers

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MANILA—Filipino migrant workers overseas tend to be younger and better educated than their counterparts in their homeland, a study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) found.

They also tend to be women.

“Around seven of every 10 temporary migrant workers are of ages between 24 to 44 years old and half of them have at least some tertiary education...with the majority of temporary migrant workers being women,” the study said.

The last 30 years saw international labor migration shape Philippine society and economy, and many see it as an enduring feature of Philippine development.

The study said that the drivers and prospects both in the local economy and in the major destination countries will define the future of migration streams in the country.

The number of Filipinos leaving the country for work shot up from around 36,000 workers in 1975 up to more than 1.2 million in 2007, it noted.

“The Middle East is the primary destination of land-based temporary migrants followed by Asia, particularly the newly industrialized countries which turned to labor importation to sustain their economic growth,” the study said.

Over the past 30 years, professionals (architects, engineers, health professionals, composers, and performing artists) dominated international labor migration in 1975, but were replaced by production process workers, transport workers, and laborers in the 1980s; this coincided with the construction boom in the Middle East.

“Unlike temporary workers who are mostly professionals and service workers (maids and housekeepers), the larger proportion of permanent migrants are unemployed—housewives, students, and minors—dependents of professionals who emigrated because of more career advancement opportunities, over and above the differences in wages,” it said.

The situation with permanent migrants is principally defined by the United States, the primary destination of Filipino migrants.

“Permanent migrants are highly educated which may reflect US immigration policy “’o admit workers with skills needed by the economy.’ In terms of age, however, the 44 years old and above age category comprises the largest group, reflecting the preference of employers in hiring more experienced workers, in addition to the family reunification program in the US,” the study said.

Other destinations of Filipino permanent migrants are countries in Asia, Oceania, and Europe.

In the case of irregular migrants, a large proportion is likewise in North America but this “is already declining from 37 percent in 1997 to 28 percent in 2007. However, there is an increasing number of irregular migrants in East Asia, comprising around 30 percent of the total number of irregular migrants in 2007. Other regions with irregular migrants are Europe and the Middle East, representing 9 and 10 percent of all irregular migrants, respectively, in 2007,” the study said.