I wonder what is the truth of the matter. Do top Philippine leaders want to bring overseas workers back home, or is the revenue generated too valuable?
Do leaders set aside the knowledge that citizens face broken homes, loneliness, and dangers of harassment and discrimination, or rape, so the Philippines can gain from the remittances which help build reserves and fund the drive to a higher ratings on debt?
That is, are citizens a commodity? A product the nation willingly manufactures through high birth rates? It "markets" the commodities by giving them training and setting up official links to other nations to open the pipelines to jobs for Filipinos?
Or are they citizens whose well-being is not being well cared for?
I wonder. I wonder.
There is no question that the number of overseas workers and the value of their remittances is a competitive advantage, economically, for the Philippines. It is a revenue stream that other nations cannot match, and it is one reason why the Philippine growth rate is second in Asia only to China. It is a big reason why S&P just upped the Philippines another notch on creditworthiness.
But the notion conflicts with what you hear about "Filipino pride". How can you remain proud, but send your citizens away to be welcomed by, and often absorbed by, other nations?
Well, I sift through all the schtick on this matter and estimate that, best case, the boom in overseas workers is a temporary phenomenon to help jump start the economy in what we hope will soon be the "post corruption era". When the economy gets going for a few years or 20, we'd expect not so many Filipinos to be forced overseas. Some will return.
"Yeah, right, Joe." That economy better really rip given the 1.7 million new babies born last year. If that birth rate continues, people will never get to come come home.
Worst case, therefore, is that nothing changes much.
The status quo is extraordinarily damaging TO FILIPINOS AT HOME. How many doctors and engineers have been driven out? How many capable business executives? How many potentially fine legislators?
I make the distinction between a "brain drain", which conveys a rather passive meaning, to DRIVING OUT talented people by social and economic conditions that the nation's leaders simply can't get a handle on. Yes, citizens are DRIVEN OUT when its President and legislators can't do what needs to be done. When excessive birthing is seen as a religious virtue rather than broad-reaching social punishment. Indeed, I fear that leaders are living in Nevernever Land. The Philippines people will never have enough to eat and the nation will never get its citizens back to their families.
If nothing changes, it remains a fundamental given that talented Filipinos simply cannot earn what their skills are worth if they stay in the Philippines. How can we ask them to stay "for pride" when their whole family is living on the edge of poverty? Or in poverty.
So, simply following the line of logic, it is natural to ask next, "Okay, well, what can we do to bring the talent back? The doctors and engineers, the business managers, the professional or trade-skilled workers? The potentially capable legislators?"
There are two barriers.
- One, the economy is so very thin here. The industrial core is not deep enough and the middle class is not rich enough to absorb the talent. Take doctors. Clients can't pay them enough; the market of rich people is not deep enough to fund more than a few well-paid doctors. Similarly, there is not enough money around so that companies can pay people well yet remain cost-competitive. So they don't pay them well.
- Subordinate to this is the ridiculous level of birthing, a condition resting squarely at the feet of the Catholic Church with it's stealth "doctrine of devastation". In the name of the pro-life movement, millions of lives are destroyed in slow motion under the cover of blindness to the effect doctrine has on real people. Think of kids digging through trash piles for food and the picture will slam home. Just connect the dots. Doctrine . . . starvation.
- But also subordinate to the thin economy is the fact that overseas many doctors step back to become nurses and many professionals step back to do service work (in restaurants, for example). Perhaps doctors and professionals don't have to make full western-scale wages to find returning the Philippines attractive. Maybe they just need the opportunity for a decent wage and the satisfaction that comes with being employed in the job for which they were trained.
- The third subordinate matter is that, as the peso strengthens, overseas workers are not able to send as much dollar-wealth back. For many, it will make less sense to stay overseas to work. So once the economy gets ripping, there will be a natural drift back to the Philippines.
- Two, the social framework in the Philippines does not nurture talent. It nurtures friends, family and favorites. And the whole social structure, the employment structure, is autocratic, not motivational. It does not recognize and promote talent. It doesn't excite and challenge good people with a steady upward track. It isolates them in a desert of no promise.
Well, let us presume that the Philippines is changing dramatically. The economic foundation is sound and getting more sound as tax leakages are stopped, the drains of corruption end, the offshore worker base expands and sends back billions each month, and some valuable commercial anchors are developed: agribusiness (e.g., rice as an export rather than import), gaming (casinos), call centers and more active tourism. Maybe the disjointed government effort to provide condoms and counseling, over the howls of the Catholic Church, will bring some reduction in the destructive over-birthing.
This is good. The economic half of the picture is moving the right direction. Just keep it cooking.
But what about the social half? The part that provides no hope, no promise for aspiring, capable workers to grow richer in job title and pay?
I have previously proposed that a "Fair Employment Act" be passed to end the hiring of people by government offices and big business on any basis but competency to do the job. People's eyes glaze over at the notion. This SOUNDS like so much Polly Anna gibberish. It's hard to relate to the dynamics of productivity that exist in the United States unless you have worked in the United States. The idea of a "Fair Employment Act" fizzles and falls flat.
So I propose re-naming the law. Giving it a decidedly Filipino twist. Call it the "Bring 'em Back Act". Establish something that is called a "career in the Philippines" that means something to those capable people overseas. Give them something to come back TO: opportunity, for example. The chance to grow and have a career and get richer over the years. The same thing they left the Philippines to find.
Turn the tables. Flip the flapjack. Present them with "opportunity" in the Philippines.
Under this act, restrict the hiring of friends, family and favorites in government and large businesses. There should be only one criterion for hiring and promotions. Competency. The ability to do the job better than anyone else. When this is the law, companies and government officials will see the advantage of nurturing its own capable people, because they are the best pool of resources to draw from. They will see the advantage of looking overseas to find Filipino talent they can bring back to the Philippines. They will learn to be less autocratic because they will quickly see that they lose good people when they do not properly motivate them.
Both workers and employers gain by an individual's hard, productive work, and his promotion to greater and greater responsibility.
That's what we want to bring overseas workers back to.
The opportunity to grow. To know that good work returns a reasonable wage and, beyond that, recognition and promotion, prestige and wealth.
One simple step can be taken by the legislature to compliment the natural progression of the economy:
Pass the "BRING 'EM BACK ACT!"