A multi-billion-dollar bonanza . . .
According to the Philippine Central Bank, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) sent home a record C$39.9 billion in cash remittances in 2021. Remittances, or funds sent home by someone working abroad, are a crucial source of income for Filipino households and an important part of the country’s economic recovery. The 2021 figure represents 5.1 per cent growth from 2020 during the height of the pandemic. It demonstrates the positive economic impact of many countries’ moves to reopen and welcome migrant workers, as well as innovations in digital technologies that made sending money much easier.
Post-pandemic recovery, pre-election resolutions . . .
The pandemic and the Philippine government’s lockdown measures generated high unemployment rates and a 16.5 per cent decline in gross domestic product in 2020. Remittances remained steady during the pandemic and accounted for nearly nine per cent of gross domestic product. Given the nation’s economic dependence on these monetary transfers, President Rodrigo Duterte signed a law in December 2021 establishing the Department of Migrant Workers, consolidating existing government agencies dealing with this issue. The Department began operations last week. Critics argue that the Department continues the Marcos-era legacy of institutionalizing labour exportation as foreign economic policy, and that the government should instead create more jobs for returning migrants and workers in the country. While these migrant workers are often hailed as ‘modern day heroes,’ they continue to face limited protections abroad and difficulties accessing resources.
Connecting countries through apps . . .
Although Canada ranks seventh as a source country of remittances for the Philippines, the Philippines remains the top recipient of remittances from Canada. Filipino migrants typically arrive in Canada as temporary foreign workers and domestic caregivers. They play critical roles as frontline workers, nurses in hospitals, members of global shipping crews, and construction workers. As indicated in APF Canada’s Things to ‘Asia Watch’ for 2022, remittances remain a resilient source of funding from host countries such as Canada, but are often impacted by high transfer costs. As international money transfer apps from Asia that focus on OFW services start to be released in Canada, they will provide vital channels for migrant workers from Canada to send remittances to the Philippines and elsewhere in Asia.