OFW-households are 10 percent | Inquirer Opinion
Social Climate

OFW-households are 10 percent

/ 01:35 AM December 05, 2015

As of this year, one out of every 10 Filipino households has a member working overseas. To be precise, 10.1 percent of the household heads interviewed in three national Social Weather Surveys so far this year said Yes when asked if the household had a member working in another country.

By official projections, there are presently 22.2 million households in the Philippines. Thus, an estimated 2.2 million are OFW-households.


This 10.1 percentage is the average of 9.7 in March, 10.6 in June, and 10.0 in September of 2015. Since each national survey has a sample size of 1,200, the 2015 average is based on a pooled sample of 3,600, with an error margin of 1.7 percentage points; when four quarters are pooled, the error margin shrinks further.

The proportion of OFW-households has been falling. The SWS surveys show that the proportion of OFW-households has declined since 2009, and rose just a bit in 2015. Earlier annual averages were 8.1 in 2014, 9.4 in 2013, 12.8 in 2012, 12.9 in 2011 (three quarters only), 14.1 in 2010, and 13.9 in 2009 (two quarters). Definitely, there has been a fall from 2009-12 to 2013-15.


Surveys for 2005-2008 are not comparable—since they addressed the question to a random adult in the household, not necessarily the head—but also trended downward. When SWS first addressed the question to a household head, in November 2001, it found the proportion with an overseas Filipino worker at 16.6 percent. Thus, the decline in OFW-households is quite large, relative to the start of the millennium.

Schooling matters the most. What strikes me most about OFW-households is the schooling of the household head. I think it can indicate the level of education—and hence the attractiveness to foreign employers—of the household’s OFW himself/herself, even though it does not refer specifically to the OFW.

Pooling together the three quarterly surveys of 2015, the average proportion of OFW-households among those headed by a college graduate is 19.8 percent (i.e., one in every five households headed by a college graduate has an OFW in it). Such households comprise 11.5 percent of all households in the Philippines, according to the SWS 2015 surveys.

In contrast, having an OFW is only 11.5 percent among households headed by a high school graduate who did not complete college, only 7.4 percent among those headed by an elementary school graduate who did not complete high school, and only 4.4 percent among those headed by someone who did not complete elementary school.

Let us call these the households of “college dropouts,” “high school dropouts,” and “elementary dropouts”—they comprise 42.2 percent, 31.6 percent, and 14.6 percent, respectively, of all households in the Philippines. (Note that the last two groups are almost half of all Filipino households. These two educationally-deficient groups will be substantially reduced if the Conditional Cash Transfer program is maintained to carry its children-beneficiaries through until they finish high school.)

Why is the Balance of Luzon the area-leader in OFW-households? Taking averages of 2015 by area, the percentage of OFW-households is 13.7 in the Balance of Luzon, versus 9.1 in the National Capital Region, 8.3 percent in the Visayas, and 7.1 percent in Mindanao.

If education were the only factor, then the NCR should be the leader instead, with the Balance of Luzon second, Visayas third and Mindanao fourth. Is the unexpected leadership of Luzonians over Metro Manilans due to a greater eagerness for foreign work, including a willingness to accept modest wages? Do Luzonians clannishly follow the examples of their OFW-townmates, and then recommend their townmates for jobs when they become OFWs themselves?


OFW-households are much less economically deprived. This is partly because of the remittances sent by their OFWs, and partly because they have members more capable of being employed abroad in the first place. The figures below are special tabulations of the September 2015 Social Weather Survey, comparing the economic situation of the 10.0 percent of households with OFWs to the 90.0 percent of households without them.

In September 2015, Self-Rated Poverty (SRP) was 36 percent in OFW-households, or much lower than the 51 percent in other households. These numbers combine into the 50 percent national SRP rate (SWS website, 11/2/2015).

In September 2015, the experience of Hunger in the previous three months was 8.0 percent in OFW households, or only half of the 16.6 percent in other households. These numbers combine into the 15.7 percent national Hunger rate (SWS website, 11/4/2015).

In September 2015, 44 percent of adults from OFW-households expected their quality of life to improve in the coming year, and 6 percent were pessimistic about it, for a Net Optimism rate of +38. In non-OFW households, 37 percent were optimistic and 5 percent were pessimistic, for a Net Optimism rate of +32. Both net optimism rates are Very High (SWS website, 10/19/2015).

OFW-household-people are equally satisfied with governance. In September 2015, satisfaction with the performance of the national administration was 58 percent among adults in OFW-households, versus 59 percent among other adults. The corresponding dissatisfaction rates were 25 percent and 22 percent. Thus, the rates of Net Satisfaction with the administration were +33 and +38, respectively, for the two groups—very similar, and both Good (SWS website, 10/15/2015).

* * *

Special tabulations for this piece were done by Josefina Mar of SWS. Contact [email protected] sws.org.ph.

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TAGS: Migrant Workers, ofws, Social Weather Stations, SWS surveys
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