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Permanence in the Periphery

In Political Economy on May 3, 2009 at 2:57 am

by Rosselle Tugade

The overseas labor sector has probably absorbed the biggest shocks brought about by the global financial crisis within the context of the Philippine economic system. The Department of Labor and Employment has reported that about 121,000 Overseas Filipino Workers have been laid off or given wage cuts. Various commentators and scholars have warned against the instability of labor export as a source of national profit time and time again. However, the State–in its sheer incapacity and incompetence to generate domestic employment and a strong local industrial sector–has tolerated and even glorified the fundamentally flawed policy of labor exportation. Thus far, the Philippines remains languishing into the lower rungs of poverty and underdevelopment and has significantly lagged behind its ASEAN neighbors.

The origin of the labor export policy is problematic in itself. Back in the 70s when land reform and the country’s manufacturing export industry showed the signs of weakness and instability, the Marcos regime propped up the exportation of labor as a temporary solution to the country’s slow economic development–that is, as a viable source of instant employment without concern of developing an equitable national economic policy framework. Fast forward four decades and four administrations later, the country has become too dependent on remittances generated by Overseas Filipino Workers to inject money into the country’s financial bloodstream. Worse, labor exportation has become a permanent and basic economic policy of every administration in lieu of developing a strong industrial sector and substantial agricultural development. Aside from its dire economic consequences of rendering the Philippines incompetent and a failure as a developmental state, labor exploitation has been the cause of several social problems, specifically creating fissures within OFW families. Not to mention, countless workers have been subjected to exploitation, abuse, and even death in foreign countries.

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