OVER THE last few weeks, I have been thinking what life is like as an OFW. I have heard several stories recently whilst doing research for this article, from OFWs who have left the Philippines at a young age and ended up in very difficult circumstances indeed.
I guess the first issue is why leave home at all? I know the call centre industry is becoming big in the Philippines; however it does seem to be a very competitive industry to get into. There is also a big demand for registered nurses, however these are often low paid jobs and I heard that some hospitals require fee from those who are seeking work experience.
So another option which may seem attractive to young people who want to earn money to support their families is to land a job abroad. Most of the jobseekers end up as domestic helpers, cooks etc. in countries mostly in the Middle East such as Saudi, Qatar and the UAE.
My question really lies on the Government’s restriction; has the government imposed a minimum age for going abroad to work? If so, I have heard many stories of girls as young as 16 and 17, going to recruiters and being made to look much older so that they can travel overseas? I am not intending to criticise at all, I merely pose a question; how comprehensive is the recruitment process for these girls? In my opinion the minimum age to work abroad should be 25 or older.
You see, I have heard many stories of these young women who have risked working in the Middle East and ended up labouring 18 hours daily with little salary, even being beaten by their employers or worse.
I would like to see a day when leaving the Philippines and getting a job abroad would be a choice and not a necessity. I hope and pray that the Philippine Government is able to somehow vet these employees or do background checks, before allowing their citizens to travel to these countries in search of work.
You are of course welcome to contact me to share your stories and views.
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By Malcolm Conlan