There is a need to revisit the various variables related to migration towards identifying ways to help migrants and their families achieve their migration goals. Remittances can be an accelerator in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Those new goals were set-up by the United Nation for Development Program for 2015-2030, following on the Millennium Development Goals.
Migrant workers from Mindanao and their families, microfinance institutions, academia, local government, private sector, and other stakeholders are joining the discussions. An important output of the conference is to come up with policy recommendations and help set up strategic alliances with like-minded organizations working on migration and development.
The Philippines has been grappling with the myriad issues of migration and of the plight of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and yet little has been done to address this reality in the context of sustainable development and of the well being of the OFWs themselves and of their families. It will be beneficial, then, for OFWs themselves and advocates for development to revisit the link between migration, remittances and sustainable development.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas says that remittances to the Philippines have been growing at 12% a year over the past decade and expected to grow at a 6% yearly rate over the coming years. While the current economic growth has given new opportunities, there is still a level of unemployment and underemployment, resulting to an increasing flow of Filipinos leaving the Philippines.
In 2013, the World Bank reported that with "....almost 10 million unemployed or underemployed Filipinos as of end of 2012, around 1.1 million potential are entrants to the labor market each year, and with poverty incidence that hardly declined between 2009 and 2012, the country faces the enormous challenge of providing good jobs to 14.4 million Filipinos through 2016. Sustaining high GDP growth of above 5 percent will be able to provide good jobs to around 2.2 million Filipinos between 2013 and 2016. However, by 2016, that still leaves 12.4 million Filipinos who will have no other option but to work abroad, work in the informal sector, or create jobs for themselves."
Yet, over ten million Overseas Filipinos sent 24.35 billion dollars in 2013. There is a need to study how our OFWs are managing their hard earned funds. After all, managing finances is a skill that can be learned. In understanding all these, there is a need to incorporate the reality that 9 million children under 18 grow up with one or both of their parents leaving overseas (UNICEF, 2009).
How OFWs disburse their incomes are dictated by personal choices, not state budget allocations. This conference aims to contribute to shift the perspective from not knowing what to do with the windfall of remittances to a renewed focus on OFW and whether their behavior patterns contribute to their life goals. After all, OFWs have already determined that migration is a financial strategy.
For the welfare of the OFWs themselves, it will be strategic to conflate the reasons why Filipinos want to work abroad in relation to what they want to achieve as life goals. Our OFWs will need skills to plan their migration and tools to measure success based on their imagined good life.
We need to propose measures and mechanisms that will maximize the potential of their earnings in a way that will sustain the impact of their remittances for their own well being and of their families. From a macro development perspective, there is also a need to articulate what policies can be advocated in the policy arena to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals beyond 2015.
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