The Philippines is a country which depends heavily on remittances. Since 1989, the income from remittances has averaged approximately one million USD, and it represented over 10% of Filipino GDP last year. So what are remittances? Remittances are a form of income that results from expatriates living abroad sending money back to their families at home. Much of this inflow of money comes from Filipino migrants in Canada; as of April this year $2,370,000 USD flowed bilaterally from Canada to the Philippines in the form of remittances.
The majority of migrants, who move for work, are largely coming from the developing world to the developed world. The demographics of migration reveal an almost even 50/50 split between men and women. In the case of the Philippines, most are women aged twenty-five to fifty-four, who derive from small, impoverished rural regions. These areas are characterized by subsistence farming, artisanal work, fishing, and so on. Often these migrants leave home with the purpose of finding better opportunities to support themselves and their families, whether it be children, the elderly, their siblings, etc.
As of April this year, the Philippines represented the largest source of immigrants in Canada. Canada supports Filipino immigration with programs like The Live-In Caregiver Program, an organization that brings care workers to Canada and consists of more than 90% Filipino immigrants. Back home, in the Philippines, the women that go abroad are celebrated as “economic heroes,”. Encouragement to work abroad for women is intense, with the government even providing programs that teach potential migrants how to use Western household devices, and problematic agencies that markets these women as commodities (see photo below).
Two thirds of female migrants work in what is known as the care industry. Due to the relatively unskilled nature of domestic work, such as childrearing, cleaning, cooking, caring for the elderly, etc. this job is an ideal fit for women who need to find work abroad. Ironically, this often leaves a care gap back home, as many of these women serve as the primary caregivers in their families, and when they leave there is no one to fill their role.
Due to this gap in care, most often, daughters are forced to take on their mother’s work in her absence. This perpetuates harmful gender norms, as many of these girls end up dropping out of school in order to properly manage their household work. One study found that the absence of a mother led to a 26 hour decrease in time spent on school work for female children. The absence of mothers specifically also impacts the emotional and mental well-being of both female and male children. These studies have also shown that children whose parents work abroad usually aspire to do the same thing, perpetuating the cycle.
In the Philippines, there are two million “left behind children” or LBC. This term is used to denote children who live without one or more parent, due to the parent’s migration for work. So, while remittances are beneficial for the economy, there are obvious detriments to the necessary means of making this kind of money. Although remittances can significantly improve the material well-being of families, they also severely harm gender development and the overall economic and social progress in the global south.
Female childhood education has been proven to be immensely beneficial for progressing gender equality and helping a country to develop both socially and economically. The absence of future educated women from the workforce represents an absence of immense potential economic gain and innovation. In some ways, while remittances help the short term economy and unemployment rates, the long term effects will harm the economy and development. This largely unrealized trend will be detrimental to the Philippines and the global south if not addressed.
Nations, like Canada, who not only accept, but encourage the immigration of Filipino workers need to consider the long term impacts for development in the Philippines. One approach Canada could use to address this issue is, perhaps, taxing remittances. This portion could then be put towards the aid budget to the Philippines. This could potentially encourage Filipino migrants to view themselves as investors in the development of their home countries and could spur on efforts to not only improve the lives of their families at home, but of their country as a whole.
Image courtesy of miszpinay