Loreto B. Soriano, executive director of the Federated Association of Manpower Exporters, Inc. urged the government, particularly the Department of Labor and Employment, to coordinate with the private sector the activities under its contingency plan for overseas Filipino workers prematurely terminated and repatriated on account of the global financial crisis.
“We at the Federation call on the DOLE to convene a meeting with its social partners in the overseas employment sector to harmonize its contingency plan for OFWs temporarily sidelined by the financial crisis,” Soriano said, noting that affected OFWs are starting to arrive home in trickles.
“In October, when we warned of the crisis’ impact on OFWs, we did not anticipate that OFWS would be sent home this early. We said it would be about March 2009 when we will start feeling the pinch. Because of this development, it is important that the DOLE initiate dialogues on how best we in the private sector could help,” he said.
Soriano said that the Federation has already asked its member-associations to establish a database of prematurely-retrenched OFWs that could be made available in a pool from where overseas employment service providers can recruit qualified workers for jobs in their respective countries of deployment.
Noting reports of OFWs who have come home because of the crisis, Soriano said OESPs are bracing for more ‘balik-bayan’ OFWs this Christmas and in the first three months of 2009.
He expressed optimism that the Philippines can ride out the global financial storm. However, he pointed out that only those OFWs who have professional and technical skills and expertise may escape the deluge of retrenchment that is expected but those who have no skills mostly in the services sector might lose their jobs.
He singled out the Middle East, notably Saudi Arabia, which continues to exhibit strong demand for OFWs.
Soriano, though, also observed that many OFWs are now selective and hesitate to work in Saudi Arabia, preferring the West, such as Canada, the US, and Australia, where salaries are much higher. Because of this, he suggested that one activity that the DOLE can do is to conduct counseling for prospective OFWs on the benefits of working in the Middle East.
“We have to change OFW attitudes about workplaces and biases against the Middle East and disregard our preferences in a time of crisis. Let’s encourage our OFWs to go to countries that have work and decent pay, rather than to countries that pay higher salaries but the jobs are not available,” he said.