OFWs are a LIABILITY because they are turning the Philippine economy into an OBESE economy


We see today the Philippines has an obese economy. Its bones (infrastructure and capital base) are buckling under the weight of sugar-fed fat it accumulated through OFWism and consumerism. Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are the equivalent of revenue candy fed to a malnourished economy. They provide a short-term energy fix that gets that next meal but, in the long run, causes more problems and sustains bad habits.

The favourite excuse Filipinos like telling themselves is that OFWs exist in the enormous numbers we suffer today because of “government mismanagement” of the economy. Perhaps so. But, see, we must consider that where there possibly is such “mismanagement” then and now, the other inconvienient truth is that there is also the underlying character of the Filipino then and now too. The earlier is the popular topic, the latter the more confronting but less “polite” to discuss. The conversation around the earlier is the easy space to inhabit. The latter conversation about how the fundamental character of the Filipino contributes to the persistence of the OFW cancer is the more uncomfortable space.

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What is interesting is the favourite argument of OFW apologists — that OFW’s contribute immensely to the Philippine economy. In reality, this “counter”-argument actually further highlights the the point I make — that an economy dependent on OFW remittances is not a healthy economy. It is a sick addicted economy that is keeping its fire burning by frantically tossing paper into it rather than sitting back relaxed and watching logs get consumed sustainably.

Filipinos churn out warm bodies then deploy them overseas as a quick fix to “save” a society that has never learned to build domestic capital sustainably. They get burnt out in the slave economies of the Arab world then come back a depleted resources to a society hollowed-out by a half-parented generation — a generation that, not surprisingly, will have been indoctrinated in the OFW-as-hero narrative and, as such, be of the mindset that going overseas to be “heroic” is the career path of choice.

The only mismanagement on the government’s part is the continued propagation of the misinformed narrative that OFWs are heroes and that OFWism is a noble long-term pursuit rather than the dangerous addictive stopgap solution that it actually is. Think jeepneys, tossing garbage and sewage into esteros, and using traffic enforcers as traffic cones along EDSA. OFWism fits right in with those classic case-studies of Filipino dysfunctional thinking. OFWism is a national policy that occupies a special exhibit in that big growing Museum of Filipino Pwede Na Yan Solutions. Anybody who believes OFWs are a subject of “national pride” needs to have their pointed heads examined. OFWs are not the Philippines’ future. OFWism is a big black hole where aspirations to be a great nation and people go to jump into, never to be seen again.

8 Replies to “OFWs are a LIABILITY because they are turning the Philippine economy into an OBESE economy”

  1. The solution is not OFWism. If anything, solution must be domestic. Something that actually is beneficial to Filipinos. And said thing must be implemented, even if it has to be forced.

    The mistake of EDSA is simply the national manifestation of the grave error that humanity made in the past 400 years. That mistake was the idea that Freedom could become so much of a thing to aspire to that Freedom to do what’s good and productive became the opening for idea of freedom being the excuse for people to do whatever they want, regardless of the repercussions.

    I think it’s time we did away with said notions of “Freedom”.

    Now there’s some “intelligent” thinking that even most Intelligentsia would shudder to even consider, what most “freethinkers” will chain themselves to never say. Because it destroys a fundamental aspect of their worldview.

  2. If I’m not mistaken, it was during the Ramos administration when OFWs were popularized as “Bagong Bayani” (New Heroes). That was 20+ years ago. Heroes are known for their self-sacrificing characters cause change for the good. Let’s see now…

    OFWs sacrifice sweat, tears, and blood – check that.

    Change? – I’m not sure. “Keeping the economy stable”? – I’m not so sure either.

    A few Filipinos including President Duterte took notice of the reported maltreatment of some OFWs in Kuwait and even made moves to at least address those grievances – actions that obviously tries to preserve the dignity of the Filipinos. But how can we preserve that dignity if most of us are already surrendering at the sound of deployment ban? Collectively, we don’t appear serious with our demands with Kuwait so how can we expect to be treated, at the very least, fairly by their government. I’m not a Digong fan but if I were him, in this scenario, I would also look at OFWs as liabilities.

  3. OFW was a “bandaid solution” for the chronic unemployment in the country. It has now become the permanent solution of unemployment. OFW remittances, float the Philippine economy. It is an addiction, and we are all addicted to it. It goes the same, as cosumerism. We go to work, as OFW, so as to afford costly consumer goods. It is the “pasikatan mentality” , that is prevalent to Filipinos.

    Most of our OFWs are household servants in the Oil rich Arab countries. The Indentured Servants in the 16th and 17th centuries, that came to North America, had better deals than our OFW household servants.

    And by the way, i have to inform you about Indentured Servants. Indentured Servants was a way for poor Europeans, to immigrate to American colonies. They sign an indenture for themselves, usually five (5) years; in return for a costly passage to North America. After the indenture, the immigrant was free to work for themselves, or for other employer. The Master of the indentured servant provides: housing, food and other basic necessities. They can be maltreated, also by the masters. Some were even murdered. But , never were put in freezers. It is a form of slavery. It is now outlawed by most countries.

    Our farm workers, who were mostly Ilocanos, went in the same way as indentured servants to Hawaii. When big corporations needed many farm workers, for their pineapple and sugar plantations. They travel on ships, from the Port of Curimao, Ilocos Norte, going to Hawaii, and work on those plantations , during the Commonwealth era.

    Going back to our OFW household slave/servants in Kuwait. I believe , they have not signed agreements with their employers. They don’t have any protection from their employers, before they took the jobs. They cannot get out of their contracts/employments; if they are maltreated, or they are paid with starvation wages, or if they are fed crumbs and sleep in a non habitable place in their master’s house. They remain there, until the DFA people rescued them.

    So, the problem here is: the recruitment process. There must be a contract , understood by all, and applicable to Kuwaiti laws…There must be a way out of the contract, if any of the parties don’t follow what are in the employment contract. Most of us, are not familiar with the Kuwaiti Laws; if they are applicable to foreign workers or not.

    So, there we go with our : “pwede na yan” mentality. It came back to bite us in the rear. It is painful, but we are all stupid.

  4. “The only mismanagement on the government’s part is the continued propagation of the misinformed narrative that OFWs are heroes…”

    @benignO, being an immigrant yourself, you mentioned here somewhere (either in an article or in the comment section) that you don’t fault those filipinos who opted to live elsewhere. I presume you believe there is nothing un-filipino there.

    Zaxx, for his part, even encouraged filipinos to go out of the country as he believes exposure to a much more “superior race” would be beneficial.

    Quite the same situations, of which, by the way, for whatever considerations or agenda, depending on whom you ask, are also tantamount to or bordering in OFWism. But, depending again in whom we ask, it can also be perceived differently.

    But wherein lies the difference? Children of privilege can claim a right to work anywhere, as an entitlement, because they can brag of a higher education, even wealth and power, usually, courtesy of their moderately/influentially rich families with powerful connections. By them having done so and then, sort of achieved something in the process, they command respect and even seen as sources of national pride. And as we know, the social upper brats aren’t to cordial to extend the same to their other lesser counterparts, who, just like them, are only seeking better options for themselves. Sadly, it appears we have different labels for the same objectives of different social classes.

    Anyway, in the ultimate analysis, whose fault really is it.. OFWism as a “dysfunction”? Should we attribute it to those men and women who are powerless or to those who are powerful?

    If there are excuses for our state rulers/managers, who hold powers to make things happen (but failed to provide the necessary condition to a better and sound economy), isn’t it moreso with the powerless who simply seek better options elsewhere? (I don’t think leaving a family and the country is neither a wish nor a dream for most OFWs as an end!)

    Individually, nothing heroic in being an OFW, except maybe for the immediate family. But in large number, together, when they contribute something to the economy, they are! (Give them credit what is due them!) They are both an asset and a liability as well.

    We know “necessity is the mother of invention”. OFWism, like any other invention, was borne out of necessity…perhaps as a need and/or as a matter of survival.

    The bigger dysfunction is the belief in, that our politicians, with their campaign promise, that change is forthcoming but failed to deliver the result and then passing the blame elsewhere.

    It’s just the same as with intended outright eradication of an antiquated public utility, in the absence of any actual and effective and practical real world game-changer modern replacement, will only only benefit the few (mostly rich capitalists and car owners!).

    Good intentions lacking in social balance and only beneficial for the privilege few, does not justify the means!

    1. Actually, I think it’s the other way around. An OFW is a hero to his or her own family. Collectively, on the other hand, and specially in the enormous numbers seen in the Philippines, they are comprise a liability.

      The argument that OFW remittances “keep the economy afloat” trumpeted as a counterargument against my assertion that they are liabilities actually reenforces my position. An economy addicted to revenue generated by the export of warm bodies cannot be regarded as a healthy one. Not sure how financially literate you are but, in accounting speak, OFWs are a human resource whose product is expensed rather than capitalised. They contribute to the capitalisation of foreign economies and only contribute counterproductive dependence on consumerism to the Philippine economy.

      So you see, there are a deeper principles employed in the assertion I make that OFWs are liabilities that ordinary schmoes evidently struggle to wrap their heads around.

  5. As long as you are ready to pay this price for living in the light (knowledge) the darkness (ignorance) becomes a servant to you.

  6. Not living there, I am not that familiar with how much OFWs play a role in the life and economy of your country. But the author seems to make a reasonable assessment of the situation. To what extent do OFW’s return with other assets besides contributions to consumer spending, such as new skills, business ideas, etc.? Are business incubators and tech accelerators readily accessible to nurture new businesses that would strengthen local economies? Are there universities and nonprofit business associations that support and train young entrepreneurs?

  7. Yes, I totally agree with the article. The preponderance of single parent families, or in some cases no parent families (both parents are OFWs) creates a population of youth who are neglected, socially inept, undisciplined, spoiled, remittance-dependent and will eventually grow into adults who will further contort the already acutely dysfunctional Philippine society.

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