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Monday, December 29, 2008

DOLE YEARENDER: Employment Facilitation Complements RP’s Response to Global Financial Crisis

Second Part of a Series

The Philippines continues to surmount the effects of the global financial crisis with the strength and vitality of its employment facilitation thrusts on both the local and the global fronts.

Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque affirmed that, “indeed, the distinctive global preference for our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) concretely indicates their productive role in averting the worst effects of the crisis affecting the world economy, assisting in staving off economic slowdown among host destinations and the local sphere.”

Roque emphasized that, notwithstanding the worldwide crunch, the year 2008 culminates as another record year for global OFW preference.

He said that so far, more than 1.221 million OFWs have been deployed in over 190 host countries, in the first eleven months of 2008 (January to November), complemented by more than US$13.7 billion in remittances to the local economy from January to October this year, as confirmed by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

“As the year 2008 proceeds to 2009, we project the global OFW deployment figure to further approach the 1.5 million level, and global OFW remittances to reach US$16 billion to $17 billion during the entire year.”

Roque was apprised earlier by the DOLE’s Philippine Overseas Employment Administration that the total figure of 1,221,829 OFWs deployed worldwide from January 1 to November 30 this year, is 24 percent higher than the 982,286 OFWs deployed in the same period in 2007. Of the total deployed, around 75 percent or 916,606, are landbased workers, while the remaining 25 percent, or 302,223, are seafarers.

The POEA added that the successful deployment of more than a million OFWs globally during the year had been complemented by the new markets that opened up in Canada, Romania, Bulgaria, Dubai, Taiwan, Qatar and Australia.

Roque further cited the POEA’s report that from January to October 2008, professionals and skilled workers accounted for the vast majority, or 90 percent of the total new hired OFWs, with those in low end skills, such as laborers, constituting the remaining 10 percent.

Globally, Roque said that the 10 major destinations of new hired OFWs during the year’s first 10 months are the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (which absorbed 61,164 or 34.5 percent of the new hires), the United Arab Emirates (34,595 or 19.5%), Qatar (21,352 or 12.0%), Taiwan (14,660 or 8.3%), Kuwait (8,326 or 4.7%), Hong Kong (7,912 or 4.5%), Canada (4,007 or 2.3%), Bahrain (2,168 or 1.2%), Australia (1,858 or 1.0%), while other destinations accounted for 19,366 or 10.9%.

On the local front, Roque said the number of employed persons, grew by another 861,000 to reach 34.533 million in October 2008, from 33.672 million in the same period last year based on the National Statistics Office’s (NSO) Labor Force Survey.

Roque also said that the DOLE-supervised network of Public Employment Service Offices (PESOs) nationwide placed in all types of jobs some 517,667 jobseekers, achieving a total placement rate of 71% out of the total number of jobseekers referred.

The DOLE, under Roque, had earlier pushed salient employment facilitation thrusts which reinforced the strength of productive opportunities locally and globally. Such salient thrusts included the following:

The Local Front

During the Labor Day celebration last May 1, Roque led the launching of the DOLE’s Greater Modular Access (GMA) Jobs Center, which is the Philippines’ first unified, synchronized on-line jobs search incorporating the time-tested Phil-Jobnet, in shopping malls, city halls, and other strategic locations in the country. A growing number of jobseekers, reaching some 169,160 people currently, or an average of more than 20,000 each month, have accessed the 100 job centers’ highly useful information, thus, facilitating their jobs searches.

Hand-in-hand with the GMA Jobs Center, the DOLE’s Phil-Jobnet system (accessible 24/7 at the world wide web through the effectively supported the placement of jobseekers in the entire 2008, by enabling them to search for work in listed job openings, and to post their resume in the online database free of charge.

DOLE also efficiently maintained its Trabaho… I-text Mo short messaging system (SMS) facility. The facility complements the Phil-Jobnet by enabling jobseekers to inquire about the vacancies posted in the Phil-Jobnet simply by typing Trabaho and sending it to 2476 for Smart subscribers, or 2376 for Globe.

The Global Front

Roque said that with an effective global network, the DOLE’s Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) in more than 30 strategic OFW host destinations worldwide are figuring greatly and effectively in the global preference for our workers.

He cited the preparations being undertaken for the Philippine-Australian cooperation on the recruitment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). This is remarkable considering that, notwithstanding the global crisis, South Australia is bent on recruiting OFWs to address its perennial skills shortage. A DOLE technical team and its counterpart from South Australia’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) have been in consultations for the forging of a pertinent Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the Labor Chief said.

Ahead of the development on Australian opportunities, Roque also triumphantly forged with His Excellency, Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Dr. Sultan bin Hassan Al-Dhabit, the Additional Protocol to the older Labor Memorandum of Agreement between the Philippines and Qatar, which successfully adopted a Standard Employment Contract (SEC) in view of the preference of Qatar, a major host country, for OFWs, and the need to ensure their protection and welfare.

Meanwhile, as Roque led the Philippine Delegation to the successful Global Forum on Migration and Development in Manila recently, he also firmed up the international cooperation to protect workers amidst the demand for their skills. With His Excellency, Minister of Labor Saqr Ghobash of the United Arab Emirates, they launched on the sideline the joint “Pilot Project: Administration of Temporary Contractual Employment from India and the Philippines to the United Arab Emirates” which takes into account the full employment cycle from recruitment to reintegration.

Sustained marketing missions

With the Secretary of Labor at the helm, the government has dispatched a total of eight (8) marketing missions so far which ensured emerging opportunities for OFWs in the new markets including Canada, Romania, Bulgaria, Dubai, Taiwan, Qatar and Australia.

The POEA said that among the results are the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) successfully forged with Qatar, and earlier, with the Provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and British Columbia in Canada.

Anti-Illegal Recruitment (AIR)

Adjunct to all employment facilitation efforts, the DOLE has boosted the ongoing drive against illegal recruitment, in cooperation with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the Philippine National Police (PNP), as well as the Local Government Units (LGUs).

In strengthening employment facilitation and protecting jobseekers, the POEA in tandem with the law enforcement agencies and LGUs assisted a total 1,662 IR victims from January to November 2008, and filed a total of 320 IR cases, with 94 surveillance conducted, resulting in 92 illegal recruiters apprehended, and nine (9) establishments closed.

Roque said that in the AIR campaign, the POEA has now forged agreements with LGUs in Metro Manila such as those entered into with Valenzuela, Malabon, Mandaluyong, Las Piñas, Muntinlupa and Quezon City, adding that the DOLE is eyeing a nationwide replication of the effort. “The guiding light is the President’s Executive Order No. 548-A clearly defining and strengthening our role in the fight against illegal recruitment.”

Deployment ban

Roque also noted that in certain cases, the Philippines has resorted to the issuance of necessary ban against OFW deployment in areas faced with crisis. Nonetheless, the measures over time had been modified depending upon the favorable change of situation or condition of OFWs, reinforced by the determined effort on the part of DOLE and the host country to impose the necessary rules in order to resume deployment and facilitate placement.

Response to Global Financial Crisis

Employment facilitation also continues in response to the global crisis. The POEA reported that of some 439 displaced OFWs assisted so far, 312 had been given referrals to other recruitment agencies for possible placement overseas.

With some 1.221 million OFWs deployed worldwide from January to November this year, there have been no appalling effects observed from the global financial crisis on OFW deployment -- notwithstanding the displacement of a limited number of workers due to bankruptcy, retrenchment, redundancy, restructuring and reduction in workload – being offset as the global economy’s efforts to turn the situation favorably around would continue to require skilled OFWs.

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