Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Effect of Arab Revolt on OFW Remittances

Posted by butalidnl on 8 April 2011

What will be the effect of the Arab Revolt on the remittances of OFWs? Well, in short – VERY LITTLE. And here are a number of reasons why:

Small OF Populations. The revolts have so far been in countries with relatively small OF populations. Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen and now Syria have few OFs. There were more OFs in Bahrain and Oman, but in Oman’s case the problem seems to have been short-lived. The Bahrain problems have not caused an exodus of OFs. If big protests take place in Saudi Arabia (which has at least 800,000 OFs) it will be only then when we should worry about OF remittances.

OFs Don’t Flee. OFs don’t immediately flee when there is conflict. No Filipinos have left Yemen since their troubles started. In Libya, the majority seem to have decided to stay on, despite the civil war. And when they do flee, they try to get another job in the region. I remember when Kuwait was invaded (in 1990); many of the Pinay domestics there evacuated with their employers to Europe, and they found other jobs there.  OFs don’t want their deployment fees to go to waste; and many also don’t want to abandon their jobs, since this may result in their being blacklisted (or so they fear).

War Premium. OFs who stay on in the middle of conflict may even earn more because of war premiums. During the Iran-Iraq war of (1980-88) many Filipino seamen collected 4 times their regular pay when their ships entered the war zone. Of course, many also died during this war, because many ships were torpedoed, but that’s something else. It seems that nurses in Libya are now earning 3 times their normal pay because of the war.

Post-revolution Boom. After the revolution – whether or not the revolution wins – economic development seems to favor the hiring of more OFs. If the tourism industry is stimulated, this would mean more Hotel/Restaurant workers would be needed – and this almost certainly would include Filipinos. If health care services would be expanded, this would mean employment for Filipino nurses. If a construction boom ensues, they would need Filipino construction workers.

Locals Work for Government. In the Gulf, local workers aspire to work for the government; leaving the bulk of private sector jobs to migrants of all kinds. A lot of these migrants come from non-Gulf countries like Egypt, Jordan or Lebanon; but they also include workers from places like the Philippines. Filipinos will always find work in the private sector there, since we are known to be good workers. Some companies even advertise the fact that they have Filipino workers – putting up signs saying that “We have Filipino workers”. Filipinos are the last to be laid off, and the first to get hired. Our place is assured.

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