An Overseas Filipino is a term used to refer to a person of Filipino origin who resides outside the Philippines. This term applies to Filipinos who are abroad as permanent residents in a different country as well as to those who are abroad for a limited period for employment or education. According to the International Labour Organisation, there are approximately 11 million Filipinos overseas.
OFW or Overseas Filipino Worker is a term used to refer to Filipino migrant workers who reside outside the Philippines for a limited period for employment. According to a report by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), with statistical data from 2017, an estimated 2.339 million OFWs are living and working abroad. In other words, all OFWs are Overseas Filipinos but not all overseas Filipinos are OFWs.
OFWs are considered economic heroes of the country because of their significant contribution towards the growth of the Philippine economy. Remittances sent by OFWs accounted for 11% of the total GDP of the country in 2018. The Philippines is one of the top 5 economies in the world that benefit the most from remittances.
OFWs are responsible for the surge in the volume of remittances sent back home. Remittance inflows to the Philippines have been on a rise. The graph above shows a steady rise from $28 billion in 2014 to $34 billion in 2018. The Philippines is the fourth-highest recipient of inward remittances after India ($79 billion), China ($67 billion) and Mexico ($36 billion) according to the World Bank.
The world is a global village and so is the labor pool. Where an OFW is in demand depends on the type of employment, gender, education, and skillset.
Statistically, most OFW men go to the Middle East for construction, mining, and oil-related jobs. And women tend to go to Southeast and East Asia for domestic jobs. In North America, OFWs work in professional jobs, including nurses, doctors, and other types of healthcare jobs. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, Saudi Arabia is the most preferred country for OFWs to work at 25.4%, others being UAE, Kuwait, Hong Kong, and Qatar.
Although, North and South America account for only 5.4% of the OFW population. The highest remittance to the Philippines by country comes from the United States($11 billion). Followed by UAE($4 billion), Saudi Arabia($3.7 billion), and Canada(2.4 billion). The United States and Canada combined contribute around 40% of the total remittances received.
This chart above represents the Balance of Payments of the Philippines in the second quarter of 2019. The positive balance indicates net outflows, which is the amount the country spent. And a negative balance indicated net inflows, which is the amount the country has earned. Remittances come under Current Account. As you can see, the current account deficit narrowed to US$1.7 billion from US$3.8 billion in the same period last year. This can be partially attributed to the remittances from OFWs with the 9.5% expansion in net inflows amounting to US$4.3 billion.
OFW remittances are closing the gap between the poor and the wealthy by contributing to a growing middle class. With improved living conditions and more disposable income, the consumption of goods and services increases, which drives the economy forward.
In conclusion, the inflow of remittances can have a significant impact on the country’s economy. OFW remittances have significantly contributed to a positive force on the country's earnings of foreign exchange. By substantially adding to the country's earnings in foreign exchange, these remittances have contributed to the strengthening of the nation's balance of payments position, sustaining the surpluses on current accounts.
Even though it is a personal sacrifice to leave behind families and loved ones to go abroad and seek employment with higher wages. The remittances sent by the foreign workers are not only contributing at the macroscopic level of the national economy of the Philippines but also at the microscopic level of household finances.