Just on the tails of my recent discovery that a good proportion of the Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong possess college degrees, I read an interesting article about Filipino migrant works in Saudi Arabia of all places in the Economist. Not only is it an interesting read about the Filipino outer-economy beyond its nation’s borders, but it also discusses many of the xenophobic fears and reactions other nations, that ironically depend on the foreign workers, possess.
What I found especially interesting about this article were a few facts stated therein. First, that 1 in 10 Filipinos work abroad! That’s HUGE! This doesn’t state what professions they occupy, nor does it enlighten us on who will or will not eventually emigrate (Part 2 on the subject concerns this), but that so many citizens of a single nation should look overseas for work is startling, to say the least.
Second, the Philippines recognizes this massive overseas population, and has its own governmental agency to handle related matters, called the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency. And further, it appears the Philippines government does its share to encourage overseas work, thereby alleviating its domestic burden of creating a better wage for those at home (the article mentions a Philippines proposal that the Saudis pay a minimum monthly wage of $400 versus the more typical $250).
The article goes onto explain the Saudi rejection of such proposal, with the primary motivation being its own domestic unemployment. But if you look at some of the comments, some very critical commenters, who appear to be from the Middle East, tout that no Saudi has the will to do manual labor jobs Filipinos currently occupy.
How should this global world economy work? As nations like Saudi Arabia, and certainly Hong Kong, rely on and benefit from domestic helpers from the Philippines, and Filipinos likewise depend heavily on these overseas jobs to survive back in their home country, what are each nation’s obligations to its citizens? Should the Filipino government be more focused on the humane treatment of its citizens overseas, or trying to figure out how to keep them gainfully employed at home? Should foreign nations maintain a minimum standard for all workers, or only extent this to domestic ones? Does cheap foreign labor really hurt a domestic economy? What are the priorities here?
More on some of these issues in Part 2.