MANILA, JUNE 12, 2012 (PHILSTAR) The official figures stand at over nine million. Migrant workers’ organizations, however, estimate that up to 15 million Filipinos are now working overseas. They remit billions annually, sustaining a consumer-driven economy and boosting growth figures.

But the phenomenon also does not speak well of the state of the nation, since it arises from the lack of better employment opportunities for millions in their own land.

The OFW phenomenon also has steep social costs. Children grow up without one or both parents. Long periods of living apart for spouses have caused the breakup of families.

The Aquino administration has promised to develop the proper environment for creating enough jobs with decent pay that can lure back overseas Filipino workers and put an end to the exodus of the nation’s workforce.

This, however, cannot be accomplished overnight. In the meantime, the government can provide OFWs better protection from illegal recruiters, and from various forms of abuse in labor-receiving countries. Simply speeding up the processing of travel and working papers can be a big help.

Today the government is marking Migrant Workers’ Day by implementing measures to promote the welfare of OFWs.

Job processing centers have been set up in several shopping malls to serve as one-stop shops for OFWs. The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration will also stop requiring OFWs who return to the Philippines for a vacation to renew their overseas employment certificates and get new exit clearances before they can return to their jobs overseas.

A key thrust of today’s observance of Migrant Workers’ Day is to intensify the campaign against illegal recruitment. Victims end up losing their life savings without landing a job, or else find themselves with a job they did not sign up for, with onerous working conditions. Many illegal recruiters have links with sex trafficking rings.

With bogus work papers, victims of illegal recruiters are highly vulnerable to abuse by employers overseas. Despite numerous horror stories about workers who were duped by recruiters, the illegal activity continues, driven by the unrelenting demand for jobs overseas. The government must do more to crack down on this illegal activity.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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