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Editorial

Jobs mismatch for PH workers

/ 05:11 AM May 14, 2018

It may seem a stretch to say that the ambitious “Build, build, build” program of the Duterte administration will easily provide more than enough jobs for overseas Filipino workers planning to return home, especially those from the Middle East where tensions have been rising.

Take the case of Kuwait. The government has imposed a total ban on deployment to that Gulf state after a series of abuses victimizing Filipino household helpers there were reported.

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The ban was imposed by the government in February upon the instruction of President Duterte to investigate the cases of seven Filipino household workers killed in Kuwait. Filipinos working there were also urged to come home.

Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno announced last week that more than a million new jobs awaited Filipinos who might have to return home from Kuwait as a result of the soured relations with Manila over migrant worker issues.

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Diokno was referring to the “Build, build, build” infrastructure program, which is expected to generate an average of 1.1 million jobs annually in the medium term as the government spends huge amounts on infrastructure projects such as railways, highways and airports. The jobs will mostly be related to construction.

But according to government data, there are more than 252,000 OFWs in Kuwait; of the number, 3 out of 4 are working as household helpers. The workers’ rights group Migrante International had earlier warned that lack of jobs and meager salaries awaited Filipino workers returning from Kuwait.

Two years ago, there were warnings that some 50,000 OFWs in Saudi Arabia would be out of job soon as a result of the oil crisis, which saw crude prices plummeting due to a global oversupply. This drop in oil prices took a toll on the Saudi government’s finances, which come mostly from oil production.

But the Philippine government is not without options to help returning OFWs. Sen. Cynthia Villar has proposed that the Department of Labor and Employment and Tesda (or the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) take advantage of the government’s “Build, build, build” program to provide job opportunities for OFWs homeward bound.

Most of the returnees being women, Villar suggested that they be trained or retrained for skills in the construction industry, citing the case of a female student of Tesda who graduated valedictorian in welding.

Trainings for certain construction skills are worth trying for women, Villar added, as these skills provide higher pay.

Tourism has for the longest time also been the low-hanging fruit that the government can easily turn into a job-generating industry.

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Villar again cited in Senate hearings the shortage of personnel in the tourism industry that returning OFWs could take advantage of.

Newly appointed Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat will probably have a better view of this given her stint as undersecretary of agriculture, where she empowered local farmers and fishers by introducing them to new methods and technologies, as well as bridging them with buyers and consumers.

The government can tap the help of the private sector to draw up a training and retraining program for returning OFWs in order to equip them with the necessary skills to be needed by the “Build, build, build” program.

The government can also fast-track its online jobs portal, which will consolidate job openings, postings and opportunities related to the infrastructure program.

This is expected to be up within the year. The “Build, build, build” committee’s plan to also hold a jobs caravan to present employment opportunities to the public will help in the skills-matching program to assist returning OFWs.

There is truly an outstanding need to review the Philippines’ overseas deployment program and redesign it to limit the skills or professions that should be allowed for jobs abroad, and craft a plan to help Filipino women find work in their native land.

More and more, it has become obvious that working as domestic helpers particularly in the Middle East is a high-risk proposition.

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TAGS: infracstructure program, Inquirer editorial, jobs mismatch, ofws, Rodrigo Duterte
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