One Nation, Overseas

They “Look Asian, think Spanish, act American“. They’re called “flexible, industrious, and frequently skilled”. They’re long distance commuters, travelling thousands of miles away from home and sent back a total of US$6 billion last year. They’re OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers — also called OCWs, Overseas Contract Workers, back home). As this Wired article, One Nation, Overseas puts it:

…the Philippines has discovered the future of work. At any given time, about 10 percent of the country’s 76.5 million population is hard at work – outside the country. During 2001, more than 800,000 people headed out on a commute that makes Rye-Grand Central seem like a milk run to the corner store. They went to Italy, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Singapore, and Uzbekistan. They went to Mongolia and Equatorial Guinea. Unlike Mexicans, who flock primarily to the United States, Filipinos traveled to 162 nations in all. Unlike Indians, who fill mostly tech and medical positions, Filipinos toil as domestic helpers, engineers, nurses, bricklayers, teachers, farmers, seafarers, stenographers, hairdressers, crane operators, cooks, and entertainers.

Using stronger foreign economies to help sustain their familes and technologies such as SMS and instant messaging to stay in touch with loved ones, OFWs make for a significant portion of the Philippines’ GDP. The price they often pay is terrible — between mistreatment by employers (especially in Singapore and the Gulf States) as well as long-term separation from family (especially rough on Filipinos, whom Neal Stephenson observed in Cryptonomicon as “incredibly family-oriented. They make Jews look like a bunch of alienated loners.”)

Check it out.

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