THE government needs to get ahead of possible job losses in the overseas worker community by negotiating for increased protections in the workers’ host countries, according to a report issued by two think tanks.

The report, written by Ateneo Center for Economic Research and Development Director Alvin P. Ang and Institute for Migration and Development Issues Executive Director Jeremaiah M. Opiniano said Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) could be vulnerable to job losses as their employers cut back in the wake of the damage to the global economy caused by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

They recommended government-to-government negotiations to improve OFW working conditions and their inclusion in the social protection programs of their host countries.

“Diplomatic officials can negotiate that Filipinos and foreign workers be retained in their jobs under reduced salaries. When the situation normalizes, the pre-COVID-19 salary levels of these foreign workers can be retained,” the report said.

The study estimates about 300,000 to 400,000 OFWs could be subject to layoffs, pay cuts, and even repatriation.

The report recommended the adoption of an OFW monitoring mechanism similar to that set up during the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.

It said the Portuguese government gave migrant workers rights equivalent to those enjoyed by its own citizens during the COVID-19 crisis.

The report projected OFW cash remittances to drop by as much as $6 billion in 2020 to about $24 to $27 billion. Likewise, it sees this spilling over to consumption, which could also drop by 20 to 40%. — Luz Wendy T. Noble