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ILO to PH: Monitor the recruitment cost to Filipino migrant workers

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By Veronica Uy

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has called on the Philippine government to closely monitor and regulate the recruitment costs borne by Filipino migrant workers. This recommendation aims to ensure fair employment practices and protect the financial well-being of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

“From October 2016 to September 2019 overseas Filipino migrant workers paid in total some 100 billion Philippine pesos (or 1.9 billion US dollar) in recruitment costs in order to obtain their job abroad, while receiving a salary of 45,000 pesos on average in their first month of work,” ILO said in a news release.

Excessive recruitment costs have been a persistent issue for many Filipino migrant workers, leading to significant financial burdens even before they start their overseas work. These costs often include fees for placement, processing, documentation, and other administrative expenses, which can sometimes exceed the workers’ initial earnings.

The ILO recommendations followed a study “Measuring Sustainable Development Goal indicator 10.7.1 on recruitment costs of migrant workers: Results of the 2019 Philippine Survey on Overseas Filipinos.”

The study results showed that over 62% of OFWs were based mainly in the Middle East countries as well as in Taiwan (China) and in Hong Kong (China). Over 80% were involved in low- to medium-skill occupations, and 37% in domestic service.

“Despite enormous costs paid in total to obtain a job abroad, overseas Filipino workers spent on average just about 1.2 months of their salary to pay back or cover the recruitment costs paid to get their jobs abroad,” the ILO study said.

“The study results imply key policy recommendations for Filipino workers to access better jobs overseas, such as in tackling gender differentials in jobs available, targeting higher skilled jobs that reflect educational attainments of Filipino workers, as well as reducing the financial burden of recruitment costs particularly for the most vulnerable migrant workers,” it added.

ILO also recommended that the Philippines continue the monitoring of SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) indicator 10.7.1, including data in the structure of recruitment costs such as recruitment agencies costs and travel costs, to sustain the [survey] as a source of data for this indicator.

The Philippine government has welcomed the ILO’s recommendations, recognizing the importance of safeguarding its migrant workers from undue financial hardships. By closely monitoring recruitment costs and implementing fair practices, the Philippines aims to provide better protection for its OFWs, ensuring their journey to overseas employment is financially sustainable and free from exploitation.

The study used data from the Philippine Labour Force Survey (LFS) of 2019, particularly from the October modular Survey on Overseas Filipinos. This was the first time the PSA piloted such measurement, though the country has a long experience in measuring the number of Filipino workers abroad on annual basis.

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