By Michael Valderrama
Friday, March 13, 2015
A COUPLE of days ago, I read an article in the BBC that suggested that the Philippines is the only nation in the world which is training its people to leave. Then I realized it’s true. The Philippines is one of the very few countries in the world that relies on foreign remittances for its economic well-being. Remittances represent 13.5 percent of our GDP – that’s about $20 billion. Let’s compare that to the industry which defines this country – agriculture, which represents 12 percent of our GDP. Apparently, our OFWs are even more important than our farmers.
What’s my problem with OFW dependency? It’s brain drain, that’s what.
Many skilled Filipino laborers who have college education are leaving the country to provide their services to other countries. Right now, there is a psychiatrist who graduated from De La Salle University who is working in the United Arab Emirates just because no one will hire her here.
There are so many intelligent, skilled Filipino professionals that come from good schools in this country, and many of them refuse to stay since A) the job situation in this country is unlikely to offer them competitive salaries, and B) there is probably no demand whatsoever for people in their profession.
Nurses dream of going to the United States and working in a big hospital there, IT people dream of going to Singapore and becoming part of their growing IT industry, English teachers dream of going to Korea or Japan, and engineers dream of going to Saudi Arabia – because if they stayed here, they would either be unemployed, underemployed, or employed but poor.
This is probably because of our country’s unwillingness to create new industries. We can’t create new industries because of money that we don’t have, and we can’t get money because all our skilled workers are leaving us. It’s a seemingly endless cycle of hopelessness and despair.
Even though the president says that we have the highest growth rate in Asia, that money is going somewhere else when it should be used to create new industries for the skilled workers that our universities are producing. Even if we borrowed money from the World Bank to create new jobs, I’m sure that it would probably wind up in the pockets of yet another corrupt politician.