The "Bring ’em Back Act"

 I wonder what is the truth of the matter. Do top Philippine leaders want to bring overseas workers back home, or is the revenue generated too valuable?
Do leaders set aside the knowledge that citizens face broken homes, loneliness, and dangers of harassment and discrimination, or rape, so the Philippines can gain from the remittances which help build reserves and fund the drive to a higher ratings on debt?
That is, are citizens a commodity? A product the nation willingly manufactures through high birth rates? It “markets” the commodities by giving them training and setting up official links to other nations to open the pipelines to jobs for Filipinos?
Or are they citizens whose well-being is not being well cared for?
I wonder. I wonder.
There is no question that the number of overseas workers and the value of their remittances is a competitive advantage, economically, for the Philippines. It is a revenue stream that other nations cannot match, and it is one reason why the Philippine growth rate is second in Asia only to China. It is a big reason why S&P just upped the Philippines another notch on creditworthiness.
But the notion conflicts with what you hear about “Filipino pride”.  How can you remain proud, but send your citizens away to be welcomed by, and often absorbed by, other nations?
Well, I sift through all the schtick on this matter and estimate that, best case, the boom in overseas workers is a temporary phenomenon to help jump start the economy in what we hope will soon be the “post corruption era”. When the economy gets going for a few years or 20, we’d expect not so many Filipinos to be forced overseas.  Some will return.
“Yeah, right, Joe.” That economy better really rip given the 1.7 million new babies born last year. If that birth rate continues, people will never get to come come home.
Worst case, therefore, is that nothing changes much.
The status quo is extraordinarily damaging TO FILIPINOS AT HOME. How many doctors and engineers have been driven out? How many capable business executives? How many potentially fine legislators?
 I make the distinction between a “brain drain”, which conveys a rather passive meaning, to DRIVING OUT talented people by social and economic conditions that the nation’s leaders simply can’t get a handle on. Yes, citizens are DRIVEN OUT when its President and legislators can’t do what needs to be done. When excessive birthing is seen as a religious virtue rather than broad-reaching social punishment. Indeed, I fear that leaders are living in Nevernever Land. The Philippines people will never have enough to eat and the nation will never get its citizens back to their families.
If nothing changes, it remains a fundamental given that talented Filipinos simply cannot earn what their skills are worth if they stay in the Philippines. How can we ask them to stay “for pride” when their whole family is living on the edge of poverty? Or in poverty.
So, simply following the line of logic, it is natural to ask next, “Okay, well, what can we do to bring the talent back? The doctors and engineers, the business managers, the professional or trade-skilled workers? The potentially capable legislators?”
There are two barriers.
  • One, the economy is so very thin here. The industrial core is not deep enough and the middle class  is not rich enough to absorb the talent. Take doctors. Clients can’t pay them enough; the market of rich people is not deep enough to fund more than a few well-paid doctors. Similarly, there is not enough money around so that companies can pay people well yet remain cost-competitive. So they don’t pay them well.
  • Subordinate to this is the ridiculous level of birthing, a condition resting squarely at the feet of the Catholic Church with it’s stealth “doctrine of devastation”. In the name of the pro-life movement, millions of lives are destroyed in slow motion under the cover of blindness to the effect doctrine has on real people. Think of kids digging through trash piles for food and the picture will slam home. Just connect the dots. Doctrine . . . starvation.
  • But also subordinate to the thin economy is the fact that overseas many doctors step back to become nurses and many professionals step back to do service work (in restaurants, for example). Perhaps doctors and professionals don’t have to make full western-scale wages to find returning the Philippines attractive. Maybe they just need the opportunity for a decent wage and the satisfaction that comes with being employed in the job for which they were trained.
  • The third subordinate matter is that, as the peso strengthens, overseas workers are not able to send as much dollar-wealth back. For many, it will make less sense to stay overseas to work. So once the economy gets ripping, there will be a natural drift back to the Philippines.
  • Two, the social framework in the Philippines does not nurture talent. It nurtures friends, family and favorites. And the whole social structure, the employment structure, is autocratic, not motivational. It does not recognize and promote talent. It doesn’t excite and challenge good people with a steady upward track. It isolates them in a desert of no promise.
Well, let us presume that the Philippines is changing dramatically. The economic foundation is sound and getting more sound as tax leakages are stopped, the drains of corruption end, the offshore worker base expands and sends back billions each month, and some valuable commercial anchors are developed: agribusiness (e.g., rice as an export rather than import), gaming (casinos), call centers and more active tourism. Maybe the disjointed government effort to provide condoms and counseling, over the howls of the Catholic Church, will bring some reduction in the destructive over-birthing.
This is good. The economic half of the picture is moving the right direction. Just keep it cooking.
But what about the social half? The part that provides no hope, no promise for aspiring, capable workers to grow richer in job title and pay?
I have previously proposed that a “Fair Employment Act” be passed to end the hiring of people by government offices and big business on any basis but competency to do the job. People’s eyes glaze over at the notion. This SOUNDS like so much Polly Anna gibberish. It’s hard to relate to the dynamics of productivity that exist in the United States unless you have worked in the United States. The idea of a “Fair Employment Act” fizzles and falls flat.
So I propose re-naming the law. Giving it a decidedly Filipino twist. Call it the “Bring ’em Back Act”. Establish something that is called a “career in the Philippines” that means something to those capable people overseas. Give them something to come back TO:  opportunity, for example. The chance to grow and have a career and get richer over the years. The same thing they left the Philippines to find.
Turn the tables. Flip the flapjack. Present them with “opportunity” in the Philippines.
Under this act, restrict the hiring of friends, family and favorites in government and large businesses. There should be only one criterion for hiring and promotions. Competency. The ability to do the job better than anyone else. When this is the law, companies and government officials will see the advantage of nurturing its own capable people, because they are the best pool of resources to draw from. They will see the advantage of looking overseas to find Filipino talent they can bring back to the Philippines. They will learn to be less autocratic because they will quickly see that they lose good people when they do not properly motivate them.
Both workers and employers gain by an individual’s hard, productive work, and his promotion to greater and greater responsibility.
That’s what we want to bring overseas workers back to.
The opportunity to grow. To know that good work returns a reasonable wage and, beyond that, recognition and promotion, prestige and wealth.
One simple step can be taken by the legislature to compliment the natural progression of the economy:
Pass the “BRING ‘EM BACK ACT!”
23 Responses to “The "Bring ’em Back Act"”
  1. Anonymous says:

    From: The cricketQuestion: Why would the rich, powerful, greedy and church want to bring back theeducated competiton to move them out ofthe island pecking order?1. Solutions and alternatives seem to be at the bottom of just about every "need" that Iexperience-witness in the rainbow islands!The real issue is to become the change….ok!2. For the most part we need to look to ourisland resources to become tools of salvation:The possible income benefit:a. Produce babies-sell them on the open market!b. Produce a high dollar organ donor bank!c. Produce (outsource of course)future bodies for military service positions in the top six world countries!c. Sell the extra sperm and eggs to labs all over the worldl!d. Sell stem cells for body replacement part generation!e. Encourage medical tourism into the islands!f. Sell PH genes into a world "gene bank"– above the cost per set of cloth-jeans! (everyone will want a PH "gene" to wear!g. Sell our musicans, singers, actors, entertainers to theatres, cruise ship lines, and casino operators all over the globe…h. Sell our children into the slave markets!Perhaps these solutions will thin the islandpopulation our for the next season of "seeding"by the pinoy-breeder stock!Ah…the potential is limitless..if only wecould ignore the damage being done by thelocal island government, church and educationalsystem to our limited environment! Why not utilize our most productive resource…otherwise the "flesh-pot" willeventually be used up by wars…or worse…chemical/biological vectors will just produce more flesh to digest into compostfor the worms benefit!The balanceof nature will eventually catch up with thosewho ignore "Mother"…usually the heard willbe thinned out by disease, pestialance, germs,bacteria…if not natural disasters…!Question: What price can we place on a poundof flesh"….or should we just respect freemarket adjustments?"Chirp!

  2. You familiar with Jonathan Swift? Most people associate him with "Gulliver's Travels", which is far, far from a children's tale. In a "Modest Proposal", he proposes that Ireland allow people to eat the extra babies. It was so shocking that government actually passed some programs to alleviate poverty.Your proposals are modest. Well, to Swift. Hereabouts they would be eyebrow raising.And medical tourism is actually a strong program in the Philippines. That's the idea for use of Subic as I understand it.

  3. brianitus says:

    Joe,A big chunk of the OFWs are still household workers, I think. I suppose they cannot come home because a decent wage is basically non-existent for them in the Philippines. There;s no minimum wage for a maid. As for nurses, they still want to go abroad, but the demand sort of slowed down already. The demand for engineers and other high-level jobs is not what it used to be like in the 70s and 80s. The demand is for skilled but low interest jobs abroad, the jobs other countries don't want to do. That creates a natural market gap that our people in the Philippines are willing to fill-up. A welder in the Philippines is no match to a welder abroad in terms of earnings. That is why the TESDA is building up on skills training in the countryside. We're exporting almost every form of skilled labor. Equalizing the wages abroad versus the wages here will naturally spike up the cost of labor and doing business in the Philippines. It is one cost the country cannot afford to go up. As far as the social cost is concerned, I think it will ultimately better for those concerned to offer their workers citizenship or residency, with an option to bring in their families. However, I am not too sure if those labor-importing countries are open to that too much because of the welfare cost spike. I am also sure that the Philippines will prefer that families all stay in the country, lest it give up a bigger chunk of remittance.To cut my sort of long explanation short, bringing home the OFW via legislation is like a Catch 22. In a way, it will be tampering with market forces already. Maybe it might be a better deal to increase the motivation to stay. That's the challenge for us as a country. Maybe part of remittances can be used like a 401K plan for regular OFWs. Maybe remittances can be used to start businesses, not just be used for a terminal investment like real estate. I mean, money goes around. The more hands it changes with, the better.As you mentioned, manufacturing can be a good start. There's that ADB paper on inclusive growth that we can go back on as a reviewer. Then there's spreading the wealth to the countryside, which is also a part of that inclusive growth strategy. I hope I sort of made sense, again. Let me know if I need to grind more beans. LOL. If I didn't make sense, I blame the 10 bottles of SMB from last night. Cheers!

  4. brianitus, the beer did not dull your crackerjack sharp mind, no worry. The Philippines will pay a price for doing economically well, and that will be in a strengthening peso and erosion of its cost advantage. Both are likely to make the home market more attractive and bring some OFW's back.On one hand, it is good, economically, to have that flow of remittances. But I've known families divided by going overseas. It is heart-wrenching and there is something uncomfortable to me about endorsing that as national policy. (Never mind that I am a volunteer OFW (retired) from the US; that was choice.) So I am troubled by the scene of keeping birthing up and outputting PEOPLE as a product of the Philippines.The "Bring 'em Back Act" would also modernize the Philippine ability to compete in every aspect of business, innovation to productivity. So there are advantages other than bringing back OFW's.

  5. Here are some paragraphs from World Bank's "Putting Higher Education to Work" (the last one hits the nail on the head):"….Pervasive lack of human capacity in higher education makes it hard to respond to labor market demand. The lack of qualified human resources has widespread implications for the relevance and quality of higher education, all the way from curriculum design to teaching and to research, also affecting the quality and quantity of university-industry links….Academic faculty has a critical role in skill provision. First, they train future primary, secondary, and tertiary teachers who in turn shape the quality and relevance of the entire national education system. Second, they provide skills to future high-level research, technical, managerial, and administrative personnel who will lead government, business, and industry. Third, they are key incubators of the innovation and creativity that will enhance national productivity and competitiveness. Lower- and middle-income East Asia are suffering from two main faculty-related constraints: higher and growing student-to-faculty ratios, and a low share of faculty with graduate degrees……..About 53 percent of the faculty in Indonesia lacks master's degrees, as does 60 percent in the Philippines….This is in contrast with Korea; Mongolia; Taiwan, China; and Thailand, which have more than 70 percent of faculty with at least a master's degree……..The Philippines is the weakest TIMSS performer among the tested Asian countries….countries with a higher TIMSS score in math and science have higher STEM enrollment shares in tertiary education later. The relation may be even clearer if one considers the quality of these STEM skills (as seen in the poor quality of engineers in several countries). A similar relation holds between TIMSS scores and journal publications: higher TIMSS scores are associated with more publications……..Increasing the number of tertiary institutions in a sending country with a low skill-price increases outbound migration of tertiary students, whereas improving the quality of domestic tertiary institutions decreases student migration. This is likely the result of the higher number of college graduates increasing the number of workers who would benefit from migrating to high skill-price countries. But higher quality retains students in country…."

  6. Looking at the "labor-export" conversation from another angle…..not from the desperate angle of migrant labor as being the product of forced circumstances…but as a matter of choice from an individual's personal cost/benefit analysis…Stiff competition exists among "labor-exporting" countries. There are only x numbers and types of jobs available to migrant workers in "labor-importing" countries i.e. not all occupations are open to all foreign workers. There is also the fact that for as long as wage differentials among countries exist there will be migration from low wage to high wage countries. So, realistically, I don't know how you can bring 'em back home when wage differentials exist. Even first world workers go to third world countries if they can make better pay there. So unless pay scales globalize or borders close, labor, and by labor I mean from blue to white collar, will go to where the money is. That's just the way it is for those who make a living selling their skills/expertise etc. So to me, looking at migrant workers from this angle, the question is how do Filipinos measure up against the competition? Second, is it wrong for a country to offer training so that those who prefer to work abroad become more competitive? Third, is the Philippines losing or gaining from cross fertilization with other cultures? Fourth, do they take home anything something that will make their country better? Fifth, a lot of people, specially the young, want to work abroad even at the same pay just for the experience of living and working in another country. In sum, there are a lot of negatives associated with labor migration but there are also a lot of positives. I wonder what the bottom line shows, is it "profit" or "loss"?

  7. "….Increasing the number of tertiary institutions in a sending country with a low skill-price increases outbound migration of tertiary students, whereas improving the quality of domestic tertiary institutions decreases student migration."Wow, that is powerful, but makes sense if you think it through. Lots of schools creating people with degrees and mediocre talent, with no jobs for them. Versus a few schools creating top-flight talent. The Philippines is the former.That idea needs to get to our legislators, I think. Especially the committee on education. Quality. Not quantity.

  8. What is this? "National Profound Day?" You have raised some excellent questions and I feel unqualified to answer them. Or rather, I need some time to filter it through the opinion-mongering sieve to see what falls through. The market for labor is indeed global. When the world was bigger, many people headed for the New World(s) to seek opportunity. They knew they would never return, not even to visit. In our smaller world, return is possible, not to mention cranking up the cam for a live chat. So perhaps I make a bigger deal of the "family split" than is necessary.I doubt that having lots of workers spread around the globe undermines nationalism or patriotism. Maybe even enhances it or introduces "Filipinoism" to other countries.Yes, how does it add up? Good question. Profit from remittances, loss from brain drain. Profit from being in the greater world. Loss from splitting up the family.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Joe,I like the original premise of your proposed "Bring 'em Back Act" ; to end the hiring of people in government agencies and big business on any basis other than competency to do the job. I have worked in "big business" when I still lived in Manila so I know that hiring standards are in place and often adhered to. Have not been in public service though, but I had a feeling that there would be some sort of rules and policies in place as well. So I did a bit of snooping online and found this Global Integrity Report on the Philippines for 2010 ( is a section on Public Administration and Professionalism where you'll find that there are indeed regulations in place to prevent cronyism, nepotism and patronage in civil service and the problem is with enforcement (as with many other rules and regulations in our country). There is a Civil Service Committee in Congress apparently so I have in mind to shoot off a few emails their way to check if they have come across this report and what they have been doing or intend to do about it. Should probably do the same with the Civil Service Commission. Will let you know if I get a response. Oh, and perhaps some people might think it's too airy fairy to hope that I might even get a response from any of these two bodies, but at least I know I tried. You see I live in the real world where real people actually do things and not in Neverland with Peter Pan who refuses to grow up. (cheap shot, I know and not very mature of me. But hey, can't a girl have fun on a Sunday?) Cha

  10. Yes, the old enforcement bugaboo. Without it, you don't really have a law or rule. Please do let me know if you get any response from your inquiries. Cha . . . so, of the female variety. That would explain the crisp intellect . . . Girls are allowed fun on Sunday according to my Humpty Dumpty version of the Bible.

  11. Anonymous says:

    From: The Cricket!1. Best discussion ever, thanks…hope we can keepup the quality and some of these comments plant a fewgood seeds on good soil (before it is too late)!2. Please to understand that my PH family is split…those that could go off island for jobs went, somenever to return, some to visit, and many more that need to go if they are allowed…!3. Know that there are about three new casino groupsgetting building permits today, and one group attemtpingto bring Disney to Subic ….! These will create moreappeal to motivate off-island tourism to a certain extent. New employment opportunitgies for the islandpopulation appear to be forthcoming…if the jobs opare given to island people only (like Macau). Howeverthe downside is that these "monuments" will also createmore poor folks….once their pockets are cleaned out theyturn to the government for more assistance, or and tothe oversease workers in the family to support them…theyjust sit and wait with their hands out! 4. The "PH rabbit" cycle is fed by the few rich/greedy/powerful and the church in order to keep them on thethrone….breeders are kept hostage for this purpose! The cycle of keeping the powerless in their seats isreinforced daily. It seems to me that the viciouscycle will only be broken by a overwhelming natural orman-made disaster, or a combination of elements whichneed not be addressed herein at this time.5. What to do to break the chains and cycles wesee keeping the people from improving their livingstandards, providing food, water, comfort, andconviences is yet to be determined and adopted byour government (with the enforcement to include thedeath penality). A off-island educated person thatreturns to the islands to retire or to participatein making good things happen can and will be helpfulif they are willing to step up and "bleed" if necessary!May I be fortunate in living long enough to see therevolution that leads to a rich future for the islandshappen! A reformation is necessary I hope it can getdone and done without bloodshed in my lifetime (itis way past being too late in my opinion)…it it cannot come a reality then it is time to paint the wallsfor the firing squads!I hope that someone has the opportunity and energy tothow a monkey wrench at a few congresspersons and gettheir attention to light the fuse of justice, liberty,and progress!Chirp…!

  12. Senator Angara was among the first to read the report. (at least, he was trying to sound as if he did) Philippine newspapers mentioned this report but I do not think the main message above came across or was understood. The sentence you picked is really powerful and insightful.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Joe,Rich and industrialized countries doesnt have OFW'S? Fact is they dont want to leave their country but as a tourist to spend their excesses. Why?I am not qualified to answer that question accurately, then you asked:"Are they citizens whose well-being is not being well cared for?"Bingo, it is a winner, but that depend on who you are talking to. In my mind, OFW thrives in the Philippines because they are hungry in terms of job security. They are that hungry where they sell their properties to pay around P180k placement fee for a DH job abroad which pays around p10K. I did my math and it would take them about 18 months to get even. That is horrible. Got to stop this insanity.Its Jack

  14. "OFW thrives in the Philippines because they are hungry in terms of job security."Yes, that is it in a nutshell, isn't it? If they have the challenge locally, and the opportunity to fulfill it, they'll stay. But if they are looking at a desert in the Philippines, might as well pack off to the real desert in Saudi Arabia. At least that one has money in it.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Cricket,Question:Are you out of your mind?Its Jack

  16. Anonymous says:

    Joe,That is right, P17b monthly revenue will certainly cause a national economic imbalance. That's how valuable OFW are.They wouldnt dare to bring them back or loss a lucractive seat in congress.Instead, I recommend to strictly regulate it. Like jail those enterprising crooks who charge P180k+ placement fee while there is no guarantee that they will have a place in the sun. Yesterday, I was talking to someone involve with the business and learned that the placement fee should be one month pay. I am mad Joe, if I am the top cop I will start arrestingthose violators. As a private person, I think I will once again go out there and start burning their offices.GrrrrrrrrrrrrIts Jack

  17. Time for you to shift from coffee to beer, Jack. Let's see, the corrupt generals have no tires and the outplacement crooks have charred offices. . .

  18. chohalili says:

    Most OFW don't want to come home, they are happy where they at. they feel the lucky few who qualified to get away…LOL! some even tried to leave using the backdoor with bogus paper,some put on garb as nun just to get away from the god forsaken land of chaos..they even hide from the Philippine govt. when they were in the war torn city of Libya & Egypt. Why arouse them? let them send the money instead! let the politicians get fat & die see the Arroyos they are all sick for too much indulgence.

  19. What wonderful pictures you paint. Of nuns escaping and fat greedy people paying the price, in the end. Lovely. "Best Picture Ever" award to chohalili. Makes me want to leave OFW's on their own . . . for their betterment . . .

  20. chohalili says:

    Also most are really stubborn! and no awareness, they save for a one year vacation for the status quo as big spender, drinking bouts with barkadas, & breeding bouts to wife, then #1, #2 #3 I know some intellect here will say not all it is only your assessment cause you are one of's not! Pinoy mentality are all the same educated or not (kayabangan) is imbed. They go back abroad and left 2 or 3 seeds (impregnated some stupid Pinays. Yes they make money but they also abuse the system, they come home and act like big shots. The Pinays who got pregnant become proud & secure cause they will start getting support and the stupid Pinoy OFW will break his back working like a horse until he lose his handsomness & manhood & start taking viagra.

  21. chohalili says:

    Thanks Mr Joe for the Acknowledgment!

  22. Anonymous says:

    Joe,That's hilarious; you made my day, but you know what? I heard Carolinas have closed their last abortion clinic and you know the leftist pro-life lunatics had done that, firebombed and even murdered the doctors. Yeah Joe, time to shift to a beer. This coffee is giving me some ideas, you know. Its Jack

  23. Anonymous says:

    Chohalili,Kayabangan is one thing we cant do without. I also know one, two used cars and two motorbikes in his garage and leave them for about a year and then worry about his rising BP. I thought, what for?Poor souls.Its Jack

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