MANILA, Philippines – The country should not take pride in being the model in terms of labor migration, according to women’s groups who are engaging the Second Global Forum on Migration on Development (GFMD).

Mercy Fabros of FDC Women’s Committee today said that what is happening is “an indictment of the failure of the national economy to provide employment and to care for its people.”

“What started out as an emergency measure during the Marcos regime has become the main economic development strategy of the country,” she said.

FDC Women’s Committee, Welga ng Kababaihan and other women’s groups warned that continuing the country’s labor export policy will lead to further underdevelopment and exploitation of women workers.  

“Labor export cannot be the motor of development of the country,” Fabros stressed. “It will be unstable and not sustainable because it relies on the volatile and dependent on speculative global labor market.”

“The government should instead prioritize the development of domestic economy to generate more long-term employment for Filipino workers and lessen the dependence on foreign aid and debt.  After all, it is joblessness that drives Filipinos to work abroad and massive indebtedness that forces nations to send their workers abroad,” she added.  

Fabros also said that remittances cannot replace strong economic and social fundamentals as the main driver of progress.

“At most, resorting to overseas work and dependence on remittances should merely be an emergency step and a very temporary arrangement resorted to by the individual family and the national economy,” she added.

Development strategy

Alice Raymundo of Task Force Food Sovereignty said that this will necessitate establishing local industries, reinvigorating agriculture and creating forward linkages between the two.  She added that the economy must veer away from export-dependence and instead direct it towards meeting the needs of the population and the local economy.  

“Dependence on migration as a development strategy only encourages a ‘race to the bottom’ on wage rate and standards, as receiving countries try to outbid each other in offering lower wages and poorer standards of living and employment for foreign workers,” she said.

Aid cuts

Amid the severe financial crisis and increasing budgetary constraints among the developed countries, the women’s groups likewise warned against GFMD’s proposal to cut-back on aid spending by developed nations and instead replace it with more intensified migrant employment.  

They added that replacing aid with remittance “completely puts into the backburner the concept of aid for social justice, as reparation of centuries-long exploitation of the Southern countries by the Northern ones.

Intensifying the exploitation of women

According to Fabros, also the lead convener of broad network Welga ng Kababaihan (Women’s March), labor export reinforces inequality between men and women workers.  

“Migrant women workers are stereotyped in jobs which are an extension of their domestic role, e.g. caregivers, nurses, domestic helpers, etc.  As such they become more vulnerable to abuse and violence.  It does not help that migrant women are deployed in male-dominated, albeit rich countries,” she said.

The women’s groups likewise said that the country and the women cannot also take pride in women being employed in the so-called economy.  

Data shows that aside from poverty pressure, the additional push for overseas work is also due to changing labor demand and changing gender-specific demand.

The women’s groups also said that while women may be employed, the prevalence of ‘de-skilling’ among women is widespread because the nature of work available to them is usually below their educational attainment.  This results in the deterioration of women’s self-esteem and dignity and higher cases of suicide among women migrant workers. -30-

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