NEWSFLASH

MIGRANT WORKFORCE AN EDGE FOR RP - JAIME ZOBEL

MANILA, January 16, 2003 (STAR) A huge overseas work force has become a competitive advantage for the Philippines amid the graying of the populations of developed countries, a top Filipino businessman said yesterday.

Ayala Corp. president and chief executive officer Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala dismissed the "outdated" view that the export of maids, merchant seamen, construction workers and professionals as a "brain drain" or to look on the migrant workers as "slave labor."

About seven million Filipinos work abroad, sending home about $8 billion last year to the impoverished Southeast Asian nation of 80 million.

"The OFW (overseas Filipino workers) contribution to our economy today is truly awesome," said Zobel de Ayala, the head of the country’s biggest conglomerate, in a speech to businessmen.

Their earnings are nearly as much as the entire agriculture sector and about half the country’s manufacturing output.

"We are now seen as a trailblazer in effectively deploying our workers - both skilled and semi-skilled - in virtually every part of the world. And we have now surpassed Mexico as the chief source of migrant labor in the world," he said.

He said the international labor market was now putting a premium on the kind of skills the Philippines can supply, helped in part by the aging of the population in many developed countries.

But Zobel de Ayala warned the Philippines could not always take this niche in the international market for granted.

"We must strive to raise our game and put our OFW program leagues away from our competitors – not just in terms of the skills that they offer but also in terms of the support system that they receive from government and our training institutions."

The government should start professionalizing and modernizing the training and deployment of workers going overseas. The labor agencies were now dominated by a loose amalgamation of "mom-and-pop" type operators.

He urged President Arroyo to adopt an internationally recognized accreditation system and explore links with highly reputable international institutions to open up more opportunities and better pay for Philippine workers. – AFP


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