2016: the year that was. 2017: the year of where?

As the Syria-driven refugee crisis continues and the deluge of migrants to Europe created the Brexit atmosphere and EU disarray -  the rise of state nationalism in France, Germany, Hungary among others as manifestation of fear and loathing of immigrants - migration was not just last year’s spotlight: it has become a bulls-eye.

In the U.S. Donald trumped conventional wisdom and became the President-elect, ostensibly with Russian President Putin believing that Trump alone could not hack it.

While Donald Trump’s campaign promises have toned down a few notches, the message remains the same: Mexicans, legal and illegal immigrants are not welcome, especially Muslims who are coming from countries considered as terrorist sponsors.  In less than two weeks, the elected 45th President of the United States will be sworn in amidst swirling controversies on how the billionaire-businessman, reality TV show host will govern by Tweeting.

How will 2017 be for migrants who may be seeking a better life, but asks for nothing more than at least fair treatment - “fair” being the operative word - because migrants and the host country may differ in definition.

At home, with less than two weeks into the new year (and more than a hundred days after Campaigner Duterte promised to end drugs and criminality in 3 to 6 months - only to request for a 6-month extension and subsequently asking for a full term to deliver on his promises as now elected President), are Filipinos still considering migrating?

If yes, which countries offer the most opportunities for temporary and/or permanent residency?

How about not leaving at all?

But why migrate if 83% of Filipinos (supposedly represented by respondents in the latest Pulse Asia survey) approved and trust President Duterte) believe that life will be better (“comfortable” Rody swears)?

Killings of drug and criminal suspects continue without let up, PNP Chief Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa claimed last week even as he ordered police commanders to further intensify their efforts to end the illegal drug trade.

From the undocumented in the US to millions of OFWs in the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere, the government urged the TNTs to return home before US President-elect Donald Trump assumes office this month.

The Department of Labor and Employment assures OFWs and TNTs that should they come home, the DOLE will be ready to provide assistance, presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said, including a loan-availment fund of P100,000 for individuals and up to Php 2 million for group borrowers.

Malacanang spokesperson emphasizes that “the end-program of President Duterte is to bring back our OFWs so we already established a mechanism for businesses and employment opportunities.” 

What and how much is the government asking Congress for funds to provide jobs and business opportunities?  Congress legislates, the President allocates.

The Department of Budget Management (DBM) is asking ₱3.34 trillion for its 2017 budget, 11.5% higher than last year.

The biggest share of taxpayers or 40 percent of the budget funds goes to social services under which P1.345 trillion would be for social services such as education, culture, health, social security, housing, and land distribution, among others.

Economic services’ share is 27.58%- or P923.954 billion targeting agriculture and agrarian reform, natural resources and environment, trade and industry, tourism, power and energy, communication, and roads and other transport, among others.

The cost of running the government takes 17.37 percent or P581.835 billion,  earmarked for general public services such as general administration, and public order and safety, among others.

Debt servicing and interest payment gets at least 10 percent or P334.877 billion of the budget.

Infrastructure building – directly affecting foreign, local investments and labor productivity – would get  P860.7 billion, a 13.8 percent increase from last year.

OFWs could find jobs in the construction and engineering sectors, as well as in the education and healthcare, agriculture and in the law enforcement fields. Otherwise, they can go into business by availing of the P100,000 individual loans and up to Php 2 million for group borrowers.

The 2017 budget is expected by President Duterte’s economic managers to produce a growth rate of 7 percent or better this year.

From the private sector, First Metro Investment Corp (FMIC), the investment arm of Metrobank confirmed the growth rate of up to 7.5% “driven by infrastructure spending, foreign direct investment, consumer spending, remittances and business process outsourcing”

Infrastructure logically should generate employment for the engineering and construction industry; foreign direct investments (FDIs) nearly doubled in the first half of the year (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reaching $4.2 billion for the first semester of 2016 compared to only $2.2 billion for the same period in 2015..

What types of employment did the FDIs create?

The equity capital placements  (mainly from Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, the United States, and Taiwan) were channeled mostly into financial and insurance, real estate, manufacturing, construction, and accommodation and food service activities.

Construction, trades and related workers represent about 13-15 percent of the total wage and salary workers receiving anywhere from P200 to P300 daily (Philippine Statistics Authority). 

The National Wages and Productivity Commission (under the Department of Labor and Employment) mandate a P491.00 basic daily wage.  Theoretically, all non-agriculture workers  in the National Capital Region including those in the services sector (comprising more than half of wage and salary workers) should be receiving this daily wage.  Sales, service, hotel, accommodation and food sector workers outside the NCR should be receiving anywhere from P260 (most regions) to P364 (Aurora, Quezon, RB 3)

Construction workers get $12.82 to $27.19 per hour in Canada (PayScale).  Even student workers (international students in Canada authorized to work) are paid at least $10.55 per hour or P3,195.28 per day. Household workers get P3,744.24 daily in Toronto (Ontario Ministry of Labor).

Household Service Workers constitute the largest contingent of temporary (work) migrants in 2015 at, 194,835, a 7.5% increase from the total deployed in 2014 -181,224 (POEA Compendium of Statistics 2015). 

While manufacturing laborers, cleaners, helpers in hotels, offices, plumbers and pipefitters posted a decline in deployment, the nursing professionals exhibited a healthy 17.96% increase from 18,799 the year before last to 22,175 last year.

Historically and into the first year of the Duterte administration, wages and salaries pay by local employers (benefitting from FDIs and consumer pending fueled by remittances)  are still no match to salaries paid  by overseas employers to full time or part-time workers (including students who are authorized to work). And the wage rates will remain basically the same even if the projected growth of 7.5% is achieved.

Choice Destinations

Given a choice, the United States is the first among equals for permanent residency, followed closely by Canada, then Australia, Europe (UK and Ireland included) and New Zealand.  For temporary (work) migration, the Middle East remains on top of the deployment totem pole.

Last year, land based OFWs in the Middle East outnumbered the rest posting a 3.21% increase from 885,541 to 913,958.  All other destinations except the Trust Territories showed a reduction in numbers

World Group

2015

2014

% change

Middle East

913,958

885,541

3.21

Asia

399,361

420,106

-4.94

Europe

29,029

29,950

-3.08

Americas

17,234

27,615

-37.59

Africa

18,226

22,240

-18.05

Trust Territories

4,777

3,867

23.53

Oceania

18,850

21,311

-11.55

Others

36,440

20,212

80.29

TOTAL

1,437,875

1,430,842

0.49

Continued decline in temporary (work) migration in the Americas

The United States and Canada representing 74% of deployed OFWs showed the biggest decline at 37.59%.

The reasons?

Not just because there are no jobs available or slow growth but also due to the existing migrant selection system (Express Entry in Canada)  and the uncertainty of obtaining the temporary work visas in the U.S. (the lottery-driven H-1B for professionals and tedious compliance requirements for the H-2B through a stringent, costly and drawn-out temporary labor certification process).

Despite the rosy projections of the Business Process Outsourcing sector, President-elect Trump – until his swearing about two weeks from now) puts the call center jobs in tenterhooks. Just this week, the Donald warned Toyota of high tariff rates if the Japanese company set up a Toyota manufacturing plant in Mexico.  Earlier he had Carrier and Ford acquiesce by saving and giving jobs to Americans instead of to foreign workers.

Could the new allies (and protectors – Russia and China) fill in the blanks?

China’s president – Xi Jinping – is sticking to his path of “new normal” – single digit growth from a consumption-based economy than the double digit growth fueled by investments and exports. This slow growth rate and reliance of the domestic populace to keep the growth steady does not augur well for the Philippines even as China has emerged as the Philippines’ second major commercial partner with $17 billion in total trade.

However, with controls on capital outflow by the Chinese government, FDIs from the Asian behemoth and conqueror of the South China Sea could stagnate if not decrease - not sufficient to fill in the gap that the US and Canada had been providing until the Duterte administration’s pivot to Putin and Xi Jinping.

Could the 6,229 OFWs deployed to China in 2014 double in the years ahead?  Before that, let’s move east to another Communist geopolitical player – Russia. 

President Duterte fist bumped with Rear Admiral Eduard Mikhailov from the visiting warship Admiral Tributs hoping that the new “ally and protector would come often.”

On deck, Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev pledged to “supply the Philippines with sophisticated weapons including aircraft and submarines” as Russia “aims to become a close friend of the traditional U.S. ally following its waltz away from the United States.

Should Russia’s affair with Europe  – more military than trade – be a portent of things to come?

Russia’s relation to the European Union is tenuous at best, given the sanctions and counter-sanctions in the last two years dominated by the annexation of Crimea and the Ukraine and Aleppo conflicts.

While the Russian economy is struggling after being hit by oil prices decline and economic sanction, however, Putin remains popular, showing above 80% approval rating.  Russia exports massive amounts of oil, gas, mineral and forest products but earnings are channeled to military spending as Putin continues to project its military might globally. 

Apparently Russians are willing to turn a blind eye on economic pain and suffering in exchange for geopolitical status.  With the election of Trump and the ascension of a Putin-Donald tandem, Russians could see themselves again as co-equal of the United States instead of just an also-ran superpower.

What about Russian-Philippine trade and migration?

During the November 2016 APEC leaders’ meeting in Lima, Russia agreed to increase its imports of Philippine agricultural products – bananas and mangoes - from $46 million to $2.5 billion per year. In addition the Duterte government is aggressively pursuing Russian tourists.

As for deployed workers, POEA reported 1,233 OFWS sent to Russia in 2014, 200 less than the previous year (1,433).

Compare the combined potential trade from Russia and China with the United States:

The US is “among the Philippines’ top trading partners, and it traditionally has been the Philippines' largest foreign investor. U.S. goods and services trade with the Philippines totaled $24 billion in 2012 (latest data available). Exports totaled $10.6 billion; Imports totaled $13.3 billion. The U.S. goods and services trade deficit with the Philippines was $862 million in 2013.” (Office of the U.S. Trade Representative).

Migration Destination

With the surge in oil prices, the Middle East should remain the top destination for OFWs.  China and Russia may increase its trade volume with the Philippines, but language barriers and lack of familiarity with Russian and China recruitment and work-right compliance are huge barriers to a significant uptick in OFW deployment to the new “allies, partners and protectors.”

For overseas jobs, the direct and official source is through the POEA. This is the link – www.poea.gov.ph. Industry sources such as https://www.bayt.com/ offer employment opportunities in various fields.

Qualified applicants intending to apply directly with overseas employers e.g., www.canadajobs.com , or http://www.jobbank.gc.ca/home-eng.do?lang=eng.  Monsterjobs.com lists jobs worldwide at https://www.monster.com/

Be aware that whether you get a job offer from an overseas employer or its authorized agency, or if you have been given a direct job offer, the employer or its representative must comply with POEA recruitment procedures - http://www.poea.gov.ph/

Temporary Work or Studies to Permanent Residency

Canada, Australia, New Zealand the US and the UK would continue to host the most number of permanent residents from the Philippines through various routes, especially the student to work to residence pathway.

The continued decline in OFW deployment to the four Commonwealth nations can be attributed to the current migrant selection which is points-system based:  New Zealand has the Expression of Interest Australia - SkillSelect, Canada- Express Entry and the UK, the Tier-based system (Tier 2 workers and Tier 4 Students).

Except for the UK, applicants to Australia, Canada and New Zealand qualify by earning the maximum points based on the applicant’s age, English proficiency, education/qualification, experience and other bonus factors such as previous stay as student or worker as well as certain qualifying relationships or community support.

Selection System

Three of the four countries with temporary to permanent residency pathways have immigrant selection systems in place.  International students enjoy the advantage of being able to apply directly and immediately for job openings. However, they have to be in full time academic studies to be able to work part time (20 hours a week during school days and work full time during off school sessions).

The websites for the countries’ selection system are shown below:

The United States is not a points-based system migration country. The main draw of the USA is the ability of those lawfully present to change from one nonimmigrant status to another (for example, from tourist to working) or from temporary to permanent resident (student or working to permanent residency under the four Employment-based categories.

Getting your work visa – even with an approved petition by a qualified employer depends on luck , because the H-1B work visa is by lottery.  The H-2B work visa on the other hand needs temporary labor certification for jobs that should not be more than a year.

Familiarize yourself with the US work visa procedures here - https://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/

For Love and Family

In the U.S., Family-sponsorship remains the main migration anchor especially for the spouses, minor children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (green card holders). Then there is the K-1 visa route. Remember that only U.S. citizens can sponsor fiance(e)s. But even family reunification could be tweeted out of its current quota by Donald Trump.

You may search our site for previous postings on love, marriage and visas.

We shall revisit the migration destinations issue after Trump is sworn in and how Rody’s swearing progresses – or regresses.

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About the Author

Crispin Aranda

Crispin Aranda

Crispin R. Aranda is an established International Visa Conselor and Immigrant Advocate. He is the president of IVC and is in several migration radio programs.


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