An article by Jeremiah M. Opiniano
MANILA ï¿½ SOUTHEAST Asian women migrant workers, of which over a half are Filipinas, sent more money than male workers to their home countries, a study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) showed.
An estimated 2.182 million contract workers and immigrants, largely women, remitted some US$3.3 billion from Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia “on monthly averages ranging from US$300 to US$500,” said the ADB study Southeast Asian Workersï¿½ Remittances.
This development surrounding remittances from Southeast Asian migrants reflects the significant trend of increasing number of female migrants from Southeast Asia, “especially those who independently decide to migrate”, the study cited.
“The human movement involved in labor migration is of obvious economic importance andï¿½ (labor export) has become the largest single foreign exchange earning activity, outweighing commodity exports, in a number of Asian labor-surplus nations,” added the study, presented by the ADB in a conference last September.
Women dominate migrant volumes
CITING estimates on the volume of migrants in East Asia, the ADB said there are 1.423 million Asian migrant workers in Japan, 621,400 foreign workers in Singapore, 1.43 million documented and 400,000 undocumented migrants in Malaysia, and 340,000 foreigners in Hong Kong.
From those estimates by the four East Asian host countries, 240,000 female migrant workers in Hong Kong are Filipina and Indonesian domestic helpers, while some 230,000 of the 240,000 maids in Malaysia are Indonesians.
Some 180,000 migrants in Japan are Filipinas, mostly as overseas performing artists (OPAs), and 150,000 of Singapore’s 621,400 foreign workers with work permits are mostly Filipina and Indonesian domestic helpers.
ADB noted there were a “large number of single women working in a country other than their own, in large part to support family members through (their) remittancesï¿½.
“These women overwhelmingly work in domestic labor situations. In addition to frequent employer pressure upon workers and would-be migrants, these women tend to face numerous challenges, some but not all of which are worse because of their sex. Meanwhile, the sex industry is another likely arena where women migrants work,” the ADB study added.
FROM the US$3.3 billion estimated remittances from those Southeast Asian women migrants (see table 1), the study said Filipino migrants remitted US$2.3 billion, Indonesians remitted about US$0.7 million, and Malaysians sent back to their country about US$0.27 million.
Of these amounts, more than half of the Asian migrant workers, especially Filipinas, were domestic workers in Hong Kong and Singapore, and as entertainers in Japan, wrote the study.
The volume of remittances, ADB added, may be higher “if estimates of undocumented workers are included”.
The ADB study was based on a survey of 2,500 Filipino, Indonesian, and Malaysian remitters who send money from Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia.
Filipinos and Indonesians in the four East Asian states were surveyed, while Malaysians in Japan and Singapore were made part of the survey, as Malaysia was considered both a country that sends out and receives migrants ï¿½ the latter including Filipinos and Indonesians.
In the respondents’ profile of the study, 58 percent of Filipino remitter-respondents in Japan, 97 percent of those in Hong Kong, 88 percent of those in Singapore, and 58 percent of those in Malaysia were women.
Women comprise 65% of OFW deployment
BASED on Philippine labor department data, nearly 3,000 Filipinos leave the country everyday for work or residence abroad, adding to the stock estimate of a total eight million Filipinos living and working temporarily or residing permanently in 197 countries worldwide.
Government data shows that over-65 percent of these deployed overseas workers are women.
Deployment data from the Philippine Overseas Employment
Administration (POEA) confirms that most of the Filipinas in Japan are overseas performing artists (OPAs), and in Hong Kong and Singapore are domestic workers. Meanwhile, a majority of the Filipinos in Malaysia are undocumented migrants in Sabah island that crossed the border from Western Mindanao.
If the estimates of this latest ADB study on the remittances of Filipinos in Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong are correct, these are higher than 2004 actual remittance figures by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas in those countries (see related story).
Multilaterals’ efforts on remittances
FUNDED by the Japan Special Fund (JSF), these data comes from the Bank’s second major study on remittances ï¿½the first being the 2004 study titled Enhancing the Efficiency of Overseas Workers’ Remittances. ADB spent US$650,000 for the Philippine and Southeast Asian remittances studies.
Apart from culling estimates of remittances, the latest study analyzed migration trends in Southeast Asia; how both senders and receivers of remittances use the money; the regulatory framework on remittances; the remittance industry in these countries; and financial intermediation initiatives.
During the conference Remittances and Poverty Reduction: Learning from Regional Experiences and Perspectives that the ADB, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)-Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) co-convened last September 12 to 13 here, ADB vice president Liqun Jin said the Bank sees its role “as a focal point for research and development of remittances in Asia”.
While the ADB, Jin said, “stepped up its efforts in addressing remittances concerns in the past two years” through “substantial research and policy development initiatives,” IDB’s MIF has “convened conferences, commissioned studies and surveys, and financed projects on the volume, transaction cost and the potential development impact of remittances,” its website wrote.
IDB-MIF, from 2001 to August 2005, has financed remittances projects through non-refundable technical cooperation grants and loans to the tune of US$40,030,653, information in www.migrantremittances.org revealed.
Jin said that US$53 billion (or 42 percent) of the world’s US$127 billion total of remittances coursed through banks in 2004 come from Asia. India, the Philippines, China and Pakistan are part of the top five remittance receiving countries worldwide ï¿½ the Philippines being number three.
ADB, a multilateral development finance institution with 64 member-countries, annually lends about US$6 billion to members, and provides technical assistance usually totaling about US$180 million a year. (OFW Journalism Consortium)