WB holds PHL up as possible model for migrant worker policy

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Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Libya arrive at the Manila International Airport on February 27, 2011. -- AFP

THE PHILIPPINE approach to migrant labor is viewed as a benchmark for other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-member states, the World Bank said.

“The Philippines has a highly developed support system for migrant workers that is a model for other sending countries,” the multilateral lender said in its Migrating to Opportunity report released yesterday.

The World Bank noted that the government has set up a clearly-defined institutional framework in the Department of Labor and Employment, which reduces bureaucratic procedures.

This is because it houses all the migrant-focused offices such as the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA), which is responsible for deployment, and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), for migrants’ protection.

In 2015, the Philippines ranked 9th worldwide in the overall number of migrants sent out, or about 5 million of the 247 million total migrants according to an earlier report by McKinsey Global Institute. In the same year, 9.8% of the country’s economy was accounted for by worker remittances.

Moreover, the World Bank also noted the Philippines’ oversight of potential migrants and regulation of recruiting agencies.

“Finally, sending countries may consider making licensed agencies responsible for claims made by migrants against employers, as occurs in the Philippines,” the report read.

The Philippines’ listing of job opportunities available abroad through job advertising sites as well as POEA’s mandatory Pre-Employment Orientation Seminar, are said to “reduce information asymmetries, improve matches between employers and workers while also diminishing the need for recruitment agencies.”

Such seminars tackle job search, illegal recruitment, allowable fees and the essential

provisions of the employment contract, and country-specific information.

“The Philippines is generally lauded for its commitment to increasing the knowledge of migrant workers. Some good practices identified with Philippine orientation programs are involving local government partners and nongovernmental organizations to incorporate a rights perspective, creating a post- arrival orientation seminar to ensure that learning does not stop at departure, developing orientation programs for recruiters, and providing migration information at the local level,” the World Bank said.

However, the World bank said that it should sustain its migrant facilitation system, with the focus on improving the reintegration of returning migrants

“To build on this status, the country should continue to evaluate and improve its migration management system, including oversight of recruitment agencies, programs for returned migrants, and data sharing and interoperability,” it said.

The bank said that countries need more research in reintegrating returned workers into their labor markets.

“Source countries can offer reintegration benefits to returning migrants, including active labor market policies to help them to find jobs or start businesses on their return,” it said.

“This type of intervention may be necessary to reintegrate migrants into a labor force in which they have lost the networks to find jobs. However, little research has been conducted on the effectiveness of reintegration programs. Audits of programs offered in the Philippines have found significant challenges,” the World Bank added. — Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan