Thursday, October 27, 2005

$3B in OFW remittances eludes banks

Posted: 2:16 AM Oct. 27, 2005
Inquirer News Service

AS MUCH as $3 billion in cash sent home by overseas Filipino workers is still coursed through non-bank channels such as couriers, Governor Amando Tetangco of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP, the central bank) said Wednesday, citing findings of a government study.

Banks are expected to capture $10.3 billion in OFW remittances this year and will likely capture a bigger proportion as the money inflows continue expanding in the years ahead, Tetangco said. "As we are able to improve remittance systems and able to use technology, we'll see more and more portions of these remittances into the banking channel," he told a forum of foreign correspondents.

The OFW money that elude banks still benefits the economy as a whole, Tetangco noted. "It still goes into the country, still goes to consumption and other uses in the economy."

"That's why in the BoP [balance of payments], we try to capture some of that by assuming there's another 20 percent that is being coursed through non-banks," he said."

That's a conservative estimate, because the survey shows it's somewhere between 25 and 30 percent." The Department of Labor and Employment did the study on OFW remittances, together with consular offices abroad. To encourage use of banks in sending OFW incomes home, the BSP is asking banks "to come up with products that OFWs can use, for those who don't have the time or inclination to go into business," Tetangco said.

He said the central bank was also studying ways to link OFW inflows with microfinance. "The $10 billion is a big account and we have a lot of people in the countryside that are potential entrepreneurs," he noted.

"Looking forward, we see that there's still potential for further expansion in the industry, for a number of reasons," Tetangco said. "One, there is increasing demand especially from countries whose populations are aging," Tetangco said. With

Almost 5,000 Filipino workers in jail overseas

First posted 07:53pm (Mla time) Oct 25, 2005
Agence France-Presse

NEARLY 5,000 Filipino workers have been jailed overseas for various crimes but the government is doing its best to help them, Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas said Tuesday.

Most are detained in Middle Eastern countries although there are others who have been jailed in Japan, Hong Kong, Brunei and Singapore, she told reporters. Up to eight million Filipinos live abroad, many on short-term employment contracts.

"Legal assistance to [overseas Filipino workers] who have committed offenses in their host countries are provided jointly by the Philippine Embassies in the host countries and by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration," she said.

Social workers are also providing humanitarian aid, she added. The lure of higher-paying jobs overseas has seen almost eight million Filipinos go abroad with nearly a million finding work overseas every year. #

Study: Worker remittances to reach $225B in '05

WASHINGTON - Migrant workers are expected to send home a whopping $225 billion this year, the World Bank said Monday, as a new study showed remittances playing a key role in slashing poverty rates in developing economies.

Worker remittances also increase spending in home countries on education, health and investment, the bank said. "Close to 200 million people are living in countries other than the ones in which they were born, and remittances are estimated to reach about 225 billion dollars in 2005," the Washington-based bank said, quoting from its forthcoming publication, Global Economic Prospects 2006.

"This makes remittances the biggest source of foreign exchange in many countries and has major implications for strategies to reduce poverty in developing nations," it said.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) earlier said it expects remittances from Filipinos working overseas to hit $10.3 billion this year, up 21 percent from 2004.

BSP Governor Amando Tetangco told reporters remittances could rise further to at least $11.3 billion next year. BSP officials have said total remittances could be around 20 percent higher if informal transfers, such as money sent home through visiting relatives and friends, are accounted for.

Remittances help fuel consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of Philippine gross domestic product.

The World Bank report, to be released in November, examines policy options to increase the poverty-reducing impact of international migration and remittances. The World Bank presented the findings in conjunction with the release on Monday of a new study, "International Migration, Remittances and the Brain Drain," produced by its research department.

It includes a detailed analysis of household survey data in Mexico, Guatemala and the Philippines -- all countries that produce millions of migrants -- which concludes that families whose members include migrants living abroad have higher incomes than those with no migrants. "The studies show that remittances reduce poverty and increase spending on education, health and investment," said World Bank economist Maurice Schiff, who co-edited the book with Caglar Ozden, also an economist at the bank.

He said the findings were consistent in all three country studies.

Further research is underway to see if they apply in other countries, he added. "The household survey evidence presented in the book demonstrates a direct link between migration and poverty reduction in the countries studied," said Francois Bourguignon, the World Bank's chief economist.

"It is groundbreaking work that is essential to sound policymaking in this area," he said. While remittances highlighted migration's positive impact on development, a more complex picture -- the so-called "brain drain" -- emerges when the study's focus shifted to the educated migrants from developing countries.

One chapter in the book unveiled "the most comprehensive database" to date, based on census and survey data from OECD countries, tracing a massive exodus of professionals from some of the world's most vulnerable low-income countries.

Eight out of 10 Haitians and Jamaicans who have college degrees live outside their country. In Sierra Leone and Ghana, the same ratio is five out of 10. Many countries in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as some island nations in the Caribbean and the Pacific, show rates of migration among professionals over 50 percent.

This was in sharp contrast to much bigger countries such as China and India, from which only three to five percent of graduates are abroad, as well as Brazil, Indonesia, and the former Soviet Union, which also have low migration rates among the educated.

On a larger scale, the study showed that migration dramatically increased global economic output by enabling workers to move to locations where they were more productive, and as a result, earn much higher wages than they would have in their developing home countries.

A large portion of these economic gains accrues to the migrants and to their families back at home through the remittances they send, it said. (AFP)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

WB study: OFW money lifting families out of poverty

Posted: 2:09 AM Oct. 25, 2005
Inquirer News Service

MONEY remitted by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) is lifting many Philippine households out of poverty by boosting funds for education, health and entrepreneurship, a new World Bank study has noted. The study, titled "International Migration, Remittances, and the Brain Drain," includes a detailed analysis of household survey data in the Philippines, Mexico and Guatemala.

The chapter on the Philippines says households with OFWs tended to be wealthier than others in terms of per capita income based on 1997-1998 data. It said that in June 1997, a month before the Asian financial crisis set in, 5.9 percent of Philippine households had one or more members working abroad.

Fifty-one percent of these households landed in the top 25 percent of the national household income per capita distribution while 28 percent were in the next-highest quartile, it said. Only nine percent of Philippine households with OFWs were noted to be still living below the poverty line.

The average per capital income of OFW households was estimated at P20,235 ($778) during the pre-Asian crisis period as opposed to ordinary households, which had a higher poverty rate of 31 percent and a lower per capita income of P11,857 ($456).

The study further noted that a currency exchange shock similar to the peso devaluation against the US dollar during the Asian crisis could lead to increases in household remittance receipts and in total household income. A 10-percent improvement in the exchange rate leads to a drop of 0.6 percentage point in the poverty rate, it noted.

Households enjoying a more favorable exchange rate were also more likely to start a business, particularly in transportation and communication services, and manufacturing, which were activities involving considerable fixed costs in vehicles and equipment that could become more affordable in the wake of positive exchange rate shocks, the study pointed out.

Those investing in transportation services were likely to venture into taxi and minibus operation while likely manufacturing activities include small activities such as mat weaving, tailoring, dressmaking and food processing, the study said.

"The fact that the exchange rate shocks stimulated such investments suggests that the shocks are likely to have persistent and positive effects on household well-being over the long term, in addition to their leading to reductions in current poverty," it said. The study also found evidence of positive spillovers to households without OFWs in terms of gift-giving.

Other key findings of the WB study were:

• 31 percent of OFW household heads have college or higher education, compared with just 20 percent of non-OFW household heads.
• 23 percent of OFW household heads work in agriculture, compared with 38 percent in all other households.
• 68 percent of OFW households live in urban areas, compared with 58 percent of non-migrant households.
• Saudi Arabia is the biggest single destination of OFWs, with 28.4 percent of the total.

Hong Kong (China) comes in second with 11.5 percent. The only other economies that account for six percent or more are Taiwan (China), Japan, Singapore, and the United States.

• OFWs have a mean age of 34.5 years; 38 percent are single and 53 percent are male. The two largest occupational categories are production and related workers, and domestic servants, each accounting for 31 percent of the total.

• 31 percent of OFWs have achieved some college education, and an additional 30 percent have a college degree.

To address rising unemployment and balance-of-payments problems, the Philippine government initiated an Overseas Employment Program in 1974 to facilitate the placement of Filipino workers abroad.

At first, the government directly managed the placement of workers with employers overseas, but soon yielded the function to private recruitment agencies and assumed a more limited oversight role.

Doris Dumlao, with

Reports on runaway workers in thousands

The Saudi Gazette

RIYADH -- The runaway workers section in Riyadh s Expatriate Department gets as many as 4,500 reports of runaway maids and workers a month, according to a report in the Arabic daily Al-Watan on Monday.

The paper said that the department s director would not give any information on the issue, saying that he had no authority to divulge such information. But the newspaper said that there is information that the department receives as many as 150 so-called missing worker reports each day.

The paper quoted visitors of the Expatriate Department in Riyadh as saying that a major contributor is the illegal employment of runaway workers by a number of citizens and expatriates for higher wages.

Fahad Al-Shammari believes that competent authorities including the Passports Department, police, and other, do not enforce harsh sanctions which would be a deterrent.

Offenders are arrested if, by coincidence, they are caught by police and sponsors are required to pay for tickets to send them home even though their legal responsibility for runaway individuals ends upon filing a running away report , he said.

Shammari adds that competent authorities are at times aware of the presence of runaway workers and when a report is filed, the Passports Department and the Police assign responsibility for arrest to each other until citizens give up and resign to the status quo.

Mahmoud Al-Haq, an expatriate, blames the running away to a number of sponsors requiring workers to pay certain amounts upon coming to Saudi Arabia in order to have the sponsor s authorization to work.

These amounts are increased each year. No longer able to bear this injustice, some workers simply run away.The head of the Expatriates Department in Riyadh declined to disclose information on the issue or on the Department s role in curbing the phenomenon on the grounds of non-competence.

However, there is information that the Section of Run-Away Labor, affiliated to the Department, receives more than 150 reports each day, which translates into more than 4,500 reports each month.

A citizen whose subordinate has run away is given a form to fill. The form contains information on the run-away worker and on his/her sponsor.

A list of workers employed by the government is then shown to a sponsor to determine whether or not a run-away worker may be working in the public sector.

On the other hand, the Department requires citizens who wish to retract a run-away report to pay fees of up to SR2,000.A sponsor who fails to report a run-away worker within three days of the running away is fined SR1,000, taking legal excuses into consideration.

Reports are received within three days of the running away incident on condition that the sponsor has not filed a lawsuit against his subordinate with any government authority.

A responsible source at the Passports Department defended the levying of a fine, explaining that some citizens make agreements with their subordinate whereby they are allowed to run away and work for other parties against a fee paid in cash to the original sponsor.

The purpose is to dodge responsibility in case a run-away worker is arrested.

In the case of maids, a sponsor is required to obtain a letter from the Maids Affairs Section indicating that the maid is no longer in his employment.

The remaining reporting procedures are subsequently finalized. The passport of a missing worker is normally handed over to the authorities within three months.

However, an exception is made in the case of maids and drivers whose passports may be handed over within two weeks in order for a sponsor to be able to apply for recruitment of a replacement.

STARTING NEXT YEAR: Maids in S'pore must be given one day off a month--report

First posted 04:26pm (Mla time) Oct 25, 2005
Associated Press

SINGAPORE -- Employers of foreign maids working in Singapore must give their domestic helpers at least one rest day a month or compensate them in cash starting next year, The Straits Times newspaper reported Tuesday. Under current legislation, Singapore's employers are not obliged to give maids any free time, but the Association of Employment Agencies watchdog group said that from January, agencies must include a clause in employment contracts that stipulate one day off a month for maids.

Following the move, domestic helpers not given their monthly rest day can sue their employers for breach of contract, the report said. More than 140,000 maids, mostly from Indonesia and the Philippines, are employed in Singapore, a wealthy Southeast Asian city-state.

Singapore made it mandatory for maid agencies to be accredited in 2003 to encourage ethical and proper employment practices. The watchdog group is one of two organizations which run accreditation schemes requiring the more than 500 agencies under them to set out clear refund policies and employment terms for maids.

Maid employment agencies that do not include a clause for time off in contracts drawn up between maids and employers may not be reaccredited, the newspaper reported."Employers tell us that they are busy, that's why they can't give their maids a day off," the paper quoted David Haw, director of employment agency Newway Holdings, as saying. "It's a shame that we are from a developed country and yet we treat our maids like slaves.

"The report said a sample of the new employment agreement had been submitted by the association to the Manpower Ministry and that a standard contract would be issued shortly, implying government approval of the measure. The association can make recommendations to employers, but has no power to enforce policy.

The watchdog and the Manpower Ministry could not be immediately contacted by The Associated Press to confirm the report.

There have been periodic cases of employers abusing their maids in Singapore, and some activists want the government to do more to protect the rights of foreign domestic helpers.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Dubai imposes visit visa curbs on six countries

Nation Immigration & Visas Published:
24/10/2005, 08:36 (UAE)
Gulf News.Com

By Sunita Menon and Bassma Al Jandaly, Staff Reporters Dubai:

Authorities in Dubai have stopped issuing visit visas for people from Bangladesh, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Niger, Iraq and Nigeria, a Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department official said yesterday.

The official, who did not wish to be named, said that family visas for people from the six nations would be issued only after the approval of the director general or the deputy director of the Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department (DNRD).

The official did not know when the visa issue would be resumed. Senior DNRD officials were not available for comment.

A senior Bangladesh official at the Bangladesh Embassy in Abu Dhabi however confirmed that issuance of visit visas for Bangladeshis has been stopped due to illegal visa trade by unscrupulous agents.

Representatives of the five other countries were not available for comment.

Officials at the Bangladeshi embassy as well as the consulate said that they had received enquiries made by Bangladeshis about the stopping of visas.

"The reason behind suspending the issuing of visit visas for Bangladeshis is due to the illegal visa trade," said Mirza Shamsuzzaman, the Bangladesh ambassador.

He said during the past year a growing number of Bangladeshis had been conned by dishonest agents into buying visit visas for a large fee.

"Many have fallen victim to the visa trade and it has caught media attention in Bangladesh. Some people have also approached me for assistance to get their money back from the agents," said Shamsuzzaman.

"The agents sell the visit visa for 200,000 taka (Dh11,182) to people who are looking for employment overseas. The victims are often illiterate Bangladeshis from villages," Shamsuzzaman added.

He said the matter had been discussed with the UAE foreign ministry, which had assured him that the temporary suspension of issuing visit visa should not be taken as discrimination against the community.
"There are about 400,000 Bangladeshis in the UAE and there is a high demand for Bangladeshi manpower," said Shamsuzzaman.

Kamrul Ahsan, the Bangladesh consul general, told Gulf News that he too had received complaints from Bangladeshis about not being able to bring their relatives to the UAE on a visit visa.

A few Bangladeshis who spoke to Gulf News said they were disappointed when informed by the enquiry desk at the DNRD that they will not be able to apply for a visa.

A Bangladeshi resident said: "Initially I called the DNRD customer service for information on the working hours. I was informed by them that visit as well as family visas for Bangladeshis have been temporarily stopped."

Thursday, October 20, 2005

4,775 jailed Pinoys all over the world

Aside from diplomacy, the Department of Foreign Affairs has also been busy providing legal assistance to at least 4,775 Filipinos — of which 1,103 are women — who are languishing in foreign prisons as of the end of 2004, Senator Ralph Recto said yesterday.

Citing an official report from DFA, Recto said the number of “prisoner OFWs” is about 10 percent of the number of current domestic prisoners.

“The dispersal of Filipinos worldwide has also resulted in the incarceration of a few of them in diverse places. Some of those who have joined the great Filipino diaspora have never found their own ‘Promised Land,’” Recto said.

Of the 82 Philippine diplomatic posts abroad, only 12 reported that there was no Filipino detained or awaiting trial in their area of jurisdiction, Recto said, noting that most of the Filipinos imprisoned violated immigration laws.

Recto said the DFA’s global situationer on OFWs revealed that at least 1,200 Filipinos were detained in Malaysia, mostly in Sabah, following the country’s crackdown on undocumented workers.

Next to Malaysia was Israel, where the Philippine embassy in Tel Aviv reported that 1,028 Filipinos were facing charges in court. Those not out on bail are detained in jails in Ramle, Hadera, Nazareth, Beersheva and Holon.

Others were caught trying to sneak into the country without papers, as in the case of 13 Filipinos caught in Croatia.

Recto said the other countries with Filipino prisoners were Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan.

“But many Filipinos in five continents were facing charges other than those that pertain to work or immigration concerns. Name it, they allegedly did it,” Recto said.

“One OFW issued fake checks in Vietnam. A nurse in Ireland was arrested for alleged Al Qaida links. A Filipina physical therapist in Michigan allegedly committed health fraud, and an aircraft engineer was arrested for smuggling contrabands into Nigeria,” he added.

In many Muslim countries, Filipinos were arrested and jailed for drinking alcohol, he said.
Recto also noted the rise in the number of Filipino women arrested for serving as “mules” or couriers of international drug syndicates.

There were also Filipinas in jails in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, Hong Kong and Peru, among others, last year.

Other cases mentioned in the DFA report involved crimes of passion, including detention of a Filipino in a South American country for seducing teenagers.

In view of the rising number of Filipino prisoners abroad, Recto asked Congress to increase the DFA’s legal assistance fund in the proposed 2006 General Appropriations Act.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

US to crack down harder on illegal immigrants

First posted 01:12pm (Mla time)
Oct 19, 2005
Agence France-Presse

WASHINGTON -- US President George W. Bush signed a new budget for the Homeland Security department Tuesday that sharply boosts funding to fight illegal immigration, as the department's head said they would now expel without exception all illegal immigrants.

The bill totaled 30.8 billion dollars in discretionary spending, 1.8 billion dollars higher than the current year's budget.

Of the total, 7.5 billion dollars is committed to fight the rising number of illegal immigrants in the country."We've got to strengthen security along our borders to stop people from entering illegally," Bush said.

"We're going to make this country safer for all our citizens," he said.

The government will also make stronger efforts to search out and deport illegal immigrants already in the country, Bush said."We must improve our ability to find and apprehend illegal immigrants who have made it across the border," he said.

"We've got to work to ensure that those who are caught are returned to their home countries as soon as possible," he said.

Buh's statement followed comments by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff earlier Tuesday that his department aims to expel all illegal immigrants without exception.

"Our goal at DHS (Homeland Security) is to completely eliminate the 'catch and release' enforcement problem, and return every single illegal entrant, no exceptions," Chertoff told a Senate hearing.

"It should be possible to achieve significant and measurable progress to this end in less than a year," he said.The Homeland Security budget includes 2.3 billion dollars for the US Border Patrol, and millions of dollars for increasing and improving border fences and technological surveillance.

The increased budget will enable the government hire 100 more immigration department agents and 250 investigators.

Prison space will be expanded by about 10 percent, or 2,000 beds, to accommodate the expected increase in apprehensions of illegal immigrants who are not Mexicans.

Chertoff told senators that currently a non-Mexican illegal imigrant caught trying to enter the United States across the southwest border has an 80 percent chance of being released immediately because of the shortage of holding facilities.

"We are moving to end this 'catch and release' style of border enforcement by reengineering our detention and removal process," Chertoff said.Bush meanwhile explained a separate strategy for Mexicans, who comprise by far the largest number of illegal immigrants in the country.

Rather than just forcing captured immigrants back over the order, under a new program called "Interior Repatriation," he US will fly or bus Mexican illegal immigrants all the way back to their hometowns.

"Many of these folks are coming from the interior of Mexico, and so the farther away from the border we send them, the more difficult it will be for them to turn around and cross right back into America," Bush said.

"By returning Mexicans to their homes, far away from desert crossing, we're helping to save lives," he said.

Chertoff's remarks in favor of returning "every illegal entrant, no exceptions" raised questions of an apparent conflict with the US policy toward illegal Cuban immigrants.

Though Cubans picked up at sea heading for US shores are returned to their country, those who reach US soil by any means are allowed to stay and work -- a policy Cuba says encourages dangerous attempts to get into the United States.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

International shipping firms prefer Filipino seafarers, MARINA says

Dumaguete City, Philippines
Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Competence and skills make Filipino seafarers the most sought-after in the international shipping industry despite the low labor rates by their counterparts from China, Vietnam, India and Bangladesh, Maritime Industry Authority regional director Glenn Cabañez said at the recent Kapihan sa PIA.

This was held in line with the National Maritime Week celebration on the theme "A Globally Competitive Maritime Industry: A Key to a Strong Republic." Officer-in-charge, Evelia Durato, of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration agreed with Cabañez that the Philippines is still the manning capital of the world in exporting qualified seafarers.

In 2002, the country deployed about 209,593 seafarers abroad and since then, the number of deployment has increased by 2.3 percent every year, Durato added. She also aired the same concern over the low salary rates particularly to Chinese seafarers.

She said that a Chinese seafarer with an ordinary seaman rank is paid only US$ 50/month compared to his Filipino counterpart with wages between US $200-300/month. Filipino seafarers rank fourth in the largest number of deployed Overseas Filipino Workers. Skilled workers, medical professionals, and domestic workers follow.

Cabañez said they will soon issue separate licensures to seafarers in the domestic and international shipping industry under different criteria and qualifications.

In order to help the domestic shipping sector hire only qualified and competent seafarers, the MARINA-7 also issues qualifying document certificates.*RG

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Groups discuss adverse impact of unabated migration of nurses, docs

MindaNews / 15 October 2005

DAVAO CITY -- A global union of health workers is initiating this month a dialogue with key government officials and an international campaign on the adverse impact of “unabated” migration of nurses and other health professionals from poorer nations on the quality of health services worldwide.

The Public Services International (PSI) has teamed up with its domestic counterpart, Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLink) for the dialogue and to raise awareness on the problems created by continuing migration of health professionals.

PSLink, in statement released today, said it will hold dialogues this month with officials of the Philippine Overseas and Employment Authority, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and Department of Health.

PSLink said it expects a delegation of health workers affiliated with PSI from Sri Lanka, Fiji, United Kingdom, Netherlands, United States of America, Canada, Japan and the Philippines to join the dialogue with labor and foreign affairs officials at the POEA headquarters in Mandaluyong City.

Jillian Roque, PSLink national secretariat member coordinating the event, said that immediately after the dialogue, the delegates will hold a three-day “partnership meeting” at the Grand Men Seng Hotel here starting October 25 to discuss ways at raising public awareness on the problems of continuing migration of nurses and health workers.

Awareness campaign plans formulated during the workshop and meetings here “will be implemented nationally, regionally and internationally,” Roque said.She said the meeting also aims to develop possible bilateral cooperation between health workers from sending and receiving country.

Roque said PSI and PSLink jointly initiated the activity in response to recent warnings from the World Health Organization and the domestic Alliance of Health Workers on the troubling trend of outward migration of nurses and other health professionals from the country.

A recent study conducted by the Institute of Health Policy and Development Studies, the National Institutes of Health Philippines, University of the Philippines Manila and the Health Science Center noted an increasing trend of deployment of nurses abroad from about 5,747 in 1992 to about 13,536 persons in 2001.The number of nurses tapered off to around 8,968 persons in 2003 but the number of nursing graduates produced yearly during these years outnumbered the projected demand for nurses.

The study noted that at present there are a total of 332,205 nurses in the country but the demand here and abroad only reaches 193,223 nurses.

The study also noted that the migrating health workers from the country are predominantly female and are between the ages of 20 to 30 with specialized training on critical care in nursing, operating room, delivery room and emergency room, and with one to ten year working experiences.

The study noted a combination of factors has driven the nurses away. Among these are low salaries, lack or inadequacy of hazard payments, low coverage of insurance, overload and stressful working condition, slow promotion, limited opportunities for employment, decreasing government budget on health care and the declining peace and order condition in the country.

The study said positive working conditions like high income, benefits and compensation packages, opportunities for skills upgrading, advance medical technlogy and better peace conditions are enticing the nurses to move abroad.

But the study also noted that as a consequence of the draining number of health workers, the country is losing senior and competent health staff. Health care in the country has also been “compromised” due to inadequate staff and poor pool of skilled health workers.

Some hospitals have also closed shop because there are not enough applicants for required residency programs.

PSLink, in its statement said the negative implications of the health workers’ migration worsen the condition of health care in the country. The country is already reeling from problems of inadequate budget and unresolved issues on the “exploitative treatment” of Filipino migrant workers. #

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Saudi Arabia to allow more women workers, more benefits for them

3:22:37 PM

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Thursday reported that a new labor law has been passed by the Saudi Council of Ministers in line with the priority agenda of King Abdullah in addressing the problem of unemployment in the Kingdom.

Citing a report from Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Bahnarim Guinomla, Acting Labor and Employment Secretary Manuel G. Imson said that one of the salient features of the new law include allowing women to work in all fields and their entitlement to maternity leave.

Imson said the new law also imposes an obligation on employers providing jobs to 50 women or more to arrange for babysitters who will take care of their children below six years old. The new law, he added, also requires companies to have at least 75 percent of their workforce to be Saudi nationals. However, this may be subject to reduction in instances where there is a shortage of qualified hands required by the companies, Imson said.

The new law also directed the Saudi Labor Ministry to establish employment offices that will provide free services to jobseekers and employers.

It also covers certain categories of workers for the first time including mine workers and the law aims to protect the rights of workers and ensures a balanced relationship between employers and employees.

The new labor law would surely impact on our overseas Filipino workers in that part of the region as the law is the realization of the Saudization plan of the Kingdom as well as its applicability to female OFWs deployed in that country, Imson said. #

Saturday, October 08, 2005

More remittances from women emphasize feminization of migration – ADB study

By Jeremaiah M. Opiniano
OFW Journalism Consortium
Saturday, 08 October, 2005

MANILA – Southeast Asian women migrant workers, of which over a half are Filipinas, sent more money than male workers to their home countries, a study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) showed. An estimated 2.182 million contract workers and immigrants, largely women, remitted some US$3.3 billion from Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia "on monthly averages ranging from US$300 to US$500," said the ADB study Southeast Asian Workers´ Remittances.

This development surrounding remittances from Southeast Asian migrants reflects the significant trend of increasing number of female migrants from Southeast Asia, "especially those who independently decide to migrate", the study cited.

"The human movement involved in labor migration is of obvious economic importance and… (labor export) has become the largest single foreign exchange earning activity, outweighing commodity exports, in a number of Asian labor-surplus nations," added the study, presented by the ADB in a conference last September.

Women dominate migrant volumes Citing estimates on the volume of migrants in East Asia, the ADB said there are 1.423 million Asian migrant workers in Japan, 621,400 foreign workers in Singapore, 1.43 million documented and 400,000 undocumented migrants in Malaysia, and 340,000 foreigners in Hong Kong.

From those estimates by the four East Asian host countries, 240,000 female migrant workers in Hong Kong are Filipina and Indonesian domestic helpers, while some 230,000 of the 240,000 maids in Malaysia are Indonesians.

Some 180,000 migrants in Japan are Filipinas, mostly as overseas performing artists (OPAs), and 150,000 of Singapore's 621,400 foreign workers with work permits are mostly Filipina and Indonesian domestic helpers. ADB noted there were a "large number of single women working in a country other than their own, in large part to support family members through (their) remittances¨. "These women overwhelmingly work in domestic labor situations.

In addition to frequent employer pressure upon workers and would-be migrants, these women tend to face numerous challenges, some but not all of which are worse because of their sex.

Meanwhile, the sex industry is another likely arena where women migrants work," the ADB study added. Estimated remittances From the US$3.3 billion estimated remittances from those Southeast Asian women migrants (see table 1), the study said Filipino migrants remitted US$2.3 billion, Indonesians remitted about US$0.7 million, and Malaysians sent back to their country about US$0.27 million.

Of these amounts, more than half of the Asian migrant workers, especially Filipinas, were domestic workers in Hong Kong and Singapore, and as entertainers in Japan, wrote the study. The volume of remittances, ADB added, may be higher "if estimates of undocumented workers are included".

The ADB study was based on a survey of 2,500 Filipino, Indonesian, and Malaysian remitters who send money from Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia. Filipinos and Indonesians in the four East Asian states were surveyed, while Malaysians in Japan and Singapore were made part of the survey, as Malaysia was considered both a country that sends out and receives migrants – the latter including Filipinos and Indonesians.

In the respondents´ profile of the study, 58 percent of Filipino remitter-respondents in Japan, 97 percent of those in Hong Kong, 88 percent of those in Singapore, and 58 percent of those in Malaysia were women. Women comprise 65% of OFW deploymentBased on Philippine labor department data, nearly 3,000 Filipinos leave the country everyday for work or residence abroad, adding to the stock estimate of a total eight million Filipinos living and working temporarily or residing permanently in 197 countries worldwide.

Government data shows that over-65 percent of these deployed overseas workers are women. Deployment data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) confirms that most of the Filipinas in Japan are overseas performing artists (OPAs), and those in Hong Kong and Singapore are mostly workers.

Meanwhile, a majority of the Filipinos in Malaysia are undocumented migrants in Sabah island that crossed the border from Western Mindanao.

If the estimates of this latest ADB study on the remittances of Filipinos in Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong are correct, these are higher than 2004 actual remittance figures by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas in those countries.

Multilaterals´ efforts on remittances Funded by the Japan Special Fund (JSF), these data comes from the Bank's second major study on remittances –the first being the 2004 study titled Enhancing the Efficiency of Overseas Workers' Remittances. ADB spent US$650,000 for the Philippine and Southeast Asian remittances studies.

Apart from culling estimates of remittances, the latest study analyzed migration trends in Southeast Asia; how both senders and receivers of remittances use the money; the regulatory framework on remittances; the remittance industry in these countries; and financial intermediation initiatives.

During the conference Remittances and Poverty Reduction: Learning from Regional Experiences and Perspectives that the ADB, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)-Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) co-convened on September 12 to 13 in Manila, ADB vice president Liqun Jin said the Bank sees its role "as a focal point for research and development of remittances in Asia".

While the ADB, Jin said, "stepped up its efforts in addressing remittances concerns in the past two years" through "substantial research and policy development initiatives," IDB's MIF has "convened conferences, commissioned studies and surveys, and financed projects on the volume, transaction cost and the potential development impact of remittances," its website wrote. IDB-MIF, from 2001 to August 2005, has financed remittances projects through non-refundable technical cooperation grants and loans to the tune of US$40,030,653, information in revealed.

Jin said that US$53 billion (or 42 percent) of the world's US$127 billion total of remittances coursed through banks in 2004 come from Asia. India, the Philippines, China and Pakistan are among the top five remittance receiving countries worldwide – the Philippines being number three.

ADB, a multilateral development finance institution with 64 member-countries, annually lends about US$6 billion to members, and provides technical assistance usually totaling about US$180 million a year. Cyberdyaryo 10/08/05