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OFW, Good or Bad for the Philippines

First, what does OFW stand for? Well I thought it stood for Overseas Foreign Worker, but from some research on Wikipedia, they show OFW stands for Overseas Filipino Worker. This group is people with Citizenship of the Philippines and lives and or work in a foreign country.

According to Wikipedia there are about 11 million Filipinos working or living overseas. Some have received Residency in the foreign country. From my limited knowledge, in the USA, if you are in the States with a contract work Visa, after 5 years you can apply for residency. At that point, you can live in the States and do not need to submit a work contract to Immigration.

These OFW’s send home in to form of Remittance money to support their family. In 2008, the amount of remittance that was sent to the Philippines was $15.9 billion dollars and represented about 13.5% of the Philippines GDP in 2005.

Most if not all OFW’s have to register with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and follow the rules. Since most OFW’s are hired through an agency, they are registered. One of the rules is they must send home a percentage of their salary. Actually, it is automatically send home from the agency that pays them.  Marine Engineers and Seamen who work on shipping vessels have to send 80% of their salary home to their family. This is not difficult since all their room and board is part of living on the ship.

Many families work hard and save for their children’s education and many look to an education in an area for employment abroad. Also with the Filipino culture of the children, helping to support their family and elders this is a way to improve the family’s life here in the Philippines. Unfortunately, if the OFW is sending 80% of their income home, which leaves them with little to support themselves in the country they are living.

As for the family back home, some use this money to improve their life. They can purchase a better home and save to open a business to increase the family’s income for the future. IF they are able to develop a business that earns a good income, once day the OFW worker can return home and live a better life with their family.

This is not always the case.  Many times this income makes the family back home lazy. They see the remittances as a way stay home and live well. Some use this better life to show off to their friends and do nothing with their life. This is bad for the family, the worker and even the country. Instead of using this increased income to help move a family up to a more self-sufficient family unit, it keeps the OFW slaving away so he does not hurt their family.

The use of family members to support their family and improve their life is a wonderful part of the Filipino culture. In the USA and in other countries, parents support their child through their schooling and hope their child will become a well-paid and productive part of society and support itself from then on. After that, in most cases, the parents go on with their life and the adult child goes on with his/hers. At times, the parent will give assistance with the buying of a home or the start of a business, but not the monthly support.

This is a cultural difference here in the Philippines. It is something you need to understand and accept if living here. As I say, it is not our right to change a culture, but to accept it as a fact of living here.

24 Responses to “OFW, Good or Bad for the Philippines”

  1. passerby says:

    The 80% is just for the seamen and marine engineering occupation, though it is very large it has been set by the philippine government due to the precedence that most of the time marine and seaman OFW’s spend a huge amount of their salary when their vessels dock on different countries(happy times :P). And after the 6 month contract expires they have no money for their families to give :(, but for OFW’s who are either in a working visa or immigrant status(e.g.middle east workers and nurses in US and UK) its upon their discretion how much they gonna send to their families.

    The part were family gets lazy is almost a huge percentage of what happens……the problem of most of the families of OFW’s there in the Philippines is that they do not know how to live modestly. I bet they are thinking its their God given right to live luxuriously since they have a cash cow sending them money and guess I have to end at this now cause its turning into a rant hehehehe

    love your observations bruce peace!!!!!

    • Bruce says:

      Thank you for your insight and appreciation. I am guessing your Filipino. If you have anything you would like to write for here, I would gladly enjoy your stories.

      • Gitarista says:

        For a short introduction, Bruce, I’m a Filipino born and raised in Manila and am currenlty living here in New York. I have lived here since leaving Manila to join my parents winter of ’82. Joined the US Navy in ’84 and got out at ’88. I am also an ex-schoolmate of Noynoy Aquino at Ateneo de Manila High School some 20 or so years ago.

        I can pretty much agree with your observation. Very keen. The reason I say this is because I’ve seen this social behavior first-hand here in the US. A family member slaves away at the opportunities good ‘ol USA can give while the rest of the brood back home lives in luxury. A pretty high percentage of Filipino families who have OFW family members helping out go through these painful trials but most do resolve them within the first year if not the first six months. The sudden influx of extra income does have an effect on a family’s perception of wants and needs. The line between those two become a bit blurred and obfuscated. But I am happy to say that most families do recover from this syndrome. That is the good part. At least for those families I’ve seen who have gone through these trials, they are more appreciative now of their blessings and have learned to use it towards self-sufficiency and financial empowerment and freedom.

        As for the OFW impact on the Philippine economy, there is the good and the bad. First, let’s talk about the good part. It has grossly affected the nation’s GDP. That’s for sure. More and more families can afford a much better and comfortable life than what the average citizen could realize a decade ago or even more so when I was still living in Manila in the early 1980s. One can really notice this. In average households at major cities, and I’m speaking of the masses here, one can start to see up-to-date electronics and entertainment appliances, e.g. LCD TVs, MP3 players, laptops and desktops etc., etc.. Sure, most still cannot afford these items unless there is supplemental income from overseas remittances, but I’ve noticed items like these starting to populate in households of the masses, albeit limited to urban and suburban areas. It may not be in quantum leaps and bounds, but it’s still progress, for lack of a better word here.

        But I have to say also, in my travels to Cebu, Mindanao, especially the Caraga region, I still see serious poverty. And this is where “the bad part” starts. The Philippine economy cannot rely alone on the OFW for its so-called “economic surge”. In layman’s terms, the current economy is slowly being transformed from a market economy into a “fee-based” economy. A great disguise for corruption. The government thrives on all these “required” fees levied on agencies prior to guaranteed employment for the applicant which in turn is taxed on the aspiring OFW. And when citizens are finally employed overseas, these OFW remittances are charged exhorbitant bank fees per dollar. Fees wherein the government of course receives a “cut” legally. Each remittance/transaction, an OFW pays a transaction fee. And on top of that the OFW is again charged with an exchange rate much lower than actual trade value. Pretty hefty, huh! Of course, one might think, what the hell is this guy talking about when he hasn’t been living in the Philippines for the last twenty odd years? I work for a major bank here in New York; one of a few major banks in the United States that has not requested bailout monies from the Feds. And I have worked in the IT arena for the last 28 years in various industries. I work in the telecommunications part of banking operations and it is not expensive for money exchange operators to pass the savings to the consumer, in this case the OFW. I think this more of a moral duty than a commitment to shareholders for banks. No matter what, banks will make a profit per transaction/remittance.

        There is still much to be desired as far as socio-economic and political reform. The “brain-drain” in the country can be partly attributed to this as well, if not mostly. Maybe that’s why movie stars are now thrusting into the political arena;-). They have better command and sympathy of and from the masses (respectively). And what better way to make more money after age has caught up? Run for public office!! The Wowowee Generation is taking over and it really scares me to death. I just wonder where the country will be when this generation I belong to is long gone and forgotten.

        My apologies to those who have read this. If I may have struck a nerve, I sincerely apologize. It is just an observation I had to share in response to this thread while roaming this vast expanse called “The Web”. When I finally retire somewhere in Davao del Norte, I hope to have the opportunity to teach part-time, basic to intermediate to advanced IT skills and concepts in the public schools…for free! It’s a dream of mine that even if I fall short, I still would have made some difference in child’s life back home.

  2. Lonnie says:

    My wife’s family must be an exception to this rule, although she has told me this practice is very common. Her Mom and dad are dead, but she has brothers, sisters, Aunt’s, Uncle’s Nieces and nephews there. Here and her sister live in the US, but neither send money back on a regular basis, and there do not seem to be any hard feelings about it as far as I can tell.


  3. Evelyn says:

    i can relate to this,bruce…hehehe
    been sending all my earnings there just to make my loved ones live comfortably…
    i have 2 children who are here now and living comfortably also and i still have 2 others who are still there..
    i hope and pray that the 2 others will also be able to come here and join us in the near future …

  4. Vanessa says:


    I’m one of the people that you didn’t hurt a single nerve, what you said is very true, well at least for me.
    P.S. Edu Manzano(a moviestar)is running for office, i heard. I feel bad for my country Philippines, some filipinos think that moviestars will make a good politicians.

  5. Rick Levy says:

    I think that the economic system that perpetuates and perpetrates the need for OFW’s is bad for the Philippines because it uses these people as a crutch that keeps the country from from developing a self-reliant economy and in a state of never-ending dependence on other countries to pick up the nation’s employment slack.

    Part of the problem of course is overpopulation. But moreover, I do not feel a bit sorry for OFW’s who are considered (especially by themselves) as martyrs for separating themselves from their spouses and children in order to support them in the manner to which they would like to become accustomed. Hello! What did you people think would happen when you got married and had had kids? Why didn’t you plan ahead? Didn’t you look around and see the stress that other people–maybe other family members–re going through as OFW’s or just as breadwinners?

    By refusing to have children until and unless you could afford them, you got yourselves into this OFW situation voluntarily, and in doing so, you have made yourself part of this country’s problem, not the solution.

    • Bruce says:

      Think of what this country would be like if there was no OFW’s. We all want to do well and help our family if we can. Here with the over population, and decent paying jobs so hard to get, at least there is a way for some families to do better.

      The over population problem is many fold. There is the Churches decree against contraceptives, the need to have large famililes to help support the family and parents in retirement.

      This country needs to do a lot more for the infastructure, industry and peoples education and support. Too bad they cannot do like China and limit the children.

  6. Rick Levy says:

    Bruce, the fact that Filipinos do manage to find work offshore is is what prevents the country from facing up to its responsibilities to build a self-reliant economy. If overseas employment opportunities were cut off, that might turn out to be a blessing in disguise and force the government to deal with reality.

    As you say, one (the main cause) of overpopulation here is the Church decree against contraceptives. Isn’t it time that the “faithful” grow up and turn their backs on this destructive policy as Catholics in other countries have done?

    And don’t you see that large families don’t help the situation? I hear that crap all the time that “If I don’t have children, who will care for me in my old age?” That is so narcissistic! Having and raising children costs a lot of money. Instead of creating kids just to satisfy an ego trip or one’s vanity, why not instead just save that money or buy an annuity to for self-support in one’s senior years? The country is already bursting at the seams with overpopulation. Carrying on these thoughtless practices generation after generation has got to stop.

    • Bruce says:

      I am not an academic, or an economist, but we make the mistake of judging or analyzing this country on American standards. Sure there are general beliefs how countries are run.
      Unfortunately we have no way of changing this country. Sure there are many problems here, but only the Philippines can change it. The more we complain, the more fustrated we become. We have a choice to be here or not. I am here, and as I say often “there are many things I do not like here, can I change them, no, so just learn to accept them.”

  7. Rick Levy says:

    Bruce, I’m neither of the above professionals either, and I’m not out to judge this country by American standards. I’m trying to judging it by what works. Obviously, the present socio-economic here system doesn’t. There are certainly other models in the region that the Philippines could try to emulate other than American (which because of colonial mentality only complicates the situation), such as Singapore and China, especially, as you mentioned in a previous post, the latter’s “one child” policy. here.

    • Bruce says:

      As I answered to Carol on the “ok mentality” post, the people and the country have to want to change things before it can happen. But with the current system and mentality, I do not see it happening.

  8. cerana says:

    The culture of dependency has ruined this country. My analogy here is… The Philippines is like a dysfunctional family. A father and a mother who can’t or don’t want to support their children. The children are forced to leave the family and find a job to support the parents and the other siblings. The parents should raise the children and not the other way around. The government is not serving the people, they are taking the people’s money ( tax, remittances, etc ) to support their lifestyle. They are getting paid for doing nothing but add misery to the situation. People want to go to politics to make a lot of money ( by corruption ) than serving its constituents. It’s wrong mindset. In the US, there are hardly politicians who are millionaires unless they were businessmen/women first before they enter politics. And usually these businessmen/women millionaires enter politics so they can contribute to the betterment of the country. Not so in the Philippines. Heck, a lot policemen in the Phils. are millionaires. I have problems with (non bussinessmen) millionaire politicians while their constituents are very, very, very poor.

  9. jat says:

    Bruce Im a filipino but now a naturalized american. I’ve been following your website esp the comment sections.
    Few years backed I visited my beloved hometown of Gensan and I met some of my relatives, and one of them was my uncle who said that the only way the philippines can improve is to be occupied by USA and be the 51st state- Bingo ‘coz that’s what Ive been thingking since I felt in love to USA. My uncle said that the Philippines is like a patient who has a cancer on a late stage or stage 4 that there’s no cure at all unless there’s a miracle and that miracle is to be governed by USA. For me I dont mind Philippines will be gone and become a state of the union. The only question now is “Is it still beneficial to Uncle Sam at this stage where it has a lot of problems-NPA, Abu Sayaf, MILF, MNLF and etc.. Sometimes when I think of our heroes like manuel L quezon, I think of BS. What is it there of being patriot when your stomach is starving? Sometimes Im thinking that philippine leaders(who are also filthy rich) are hesitant that the Philippines will become a first world country like USA, Japan, germany or maybe korea and singapore is that:1)labor will be expensive thus maids, butlers, bodyguards/private armies, kabits(harem)will be hard to find or will not exist at all. 2)Politicians/governmetn leaders will be seen as mere public servants and not as like a demi-God that people should lick and kiss their ass. 3)and lastly it will like an equal society like america where what politicians eat, drive, go to, and play can also be done or be afforded by most of the citizens they govern—truly EQUALITY
    Bruce, the last trait I mentioned, EQUALITY, I think there is no country on earth that exhibits that than the United States of America esp in regards to oppurtunity,service, education jobs and etc. I was born in the philippines and a Filipino but I never
    experienced equality and respect there specifically from the government. It takes a foreign land to give me that wonderful treatment.
    But Bruce what is so mysterious about all these? despite being basterdized by my former country is that there is still a longing for me go back there someday and contribute in my own little way to improve the Filipinos standard of living esp those who dont even have a small window of any oppurtunities. If it will take my life, probably I’ll still do it. God bless you Bruce

    • Bruce says:

      I thank you for commenting, I enjoy getting comments and thoughts of all peoples with connections to the Philippines. Filipinos here, abroad, foreigners here or planing to move here. We all learn from each other.
      I understand you seeing the differences and your thoughts are interesting, but I think too late. The Philippines has self governed for too long to be willing to give control to another country. You actually mentioned all the reasons.
      This is a country of many ruled by a few. The many do not know how to change and the few will not let them.
      I also think there is no solution to the NPA, MILF or the Abu Sayaf. The poor find a feeling of belonging and easily swayed for the dreams of a better life.

  10. In defence of the OFW Remittances is that if you give money you will always end up with parasites.. In the UK we call it the Benefit class. There are those who are struggling to get a job but there are literally millions who have no intention of even sniffing at a days work. Truth of the matter is if someone is getting P10,000 a month remittance why would they want a P6,000 job? rather than thinking ahead that they would have P16,000 which puts them in a positive to do even more. A lot of the problem is education and not understanding how much that money costs in hours to the person(s) who are earning it. A recent chat with someone who moved into another country in the last few months has realised the extra money from being an OFW isnt great as the bills are all in line. So now she is working 3 jobs as she wants to move forward and is firmly in a sink or swim situation.

    How would I resolve the situation? Personally I do what I do which is filter out the good from the bad. If there are members not keen to work that is fine but they wont be seeing any money from me. Everyone else can/does take a business option and I invest in a small scale business they manage on a 50/50 profit share. People need to look at changing the nature of the remittances and putting a value on them.

    Is it bad for the Philippines? They have lost more than a decade of experience. They have lost the best medical and teaching staff. What is left is a skeleton that has its bones picked on a regular basis so is unlikely to recover.

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