Overseas employment remains to be a viable option for Filipinos. Annual deployment data showed that close to a million Filipinos went abroad to work. Estimates on the number of Filipinos overseas was placed at more than 7 million. These Filipinos overseas are lauded as modern day heroes as their remittances has kept the Philippine economy afloat.

What then would be in store for Filipinos aspiring to work abroad? This article presents the prospects and potential markets for overseas employment.

Prospects for Overseas Employment

Opportunities for Filipino workers and professionals abound based on the reports of labor officials posted in various parts of the world. What follows are some of the opportunities that are up for grabs for Filipinos desiring to work overseas.

Region/ Country
Skills Required
Middle East


10-15 K jobs in oil, power, food services, communications, transport, waterworks, and health sectors
Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and United Arab Emirates Workers for infrastructure development projects (gas, electricity, water, finance, communications, engineering design, retail, health services, construction, IT, hotel/ tourism
Israel Tourism and skilled workers


English teachers, engineers, ICT professionals
Taiwan Workers in electro- nics, manufacturing and industries; IT workers, caretakers
Hong Kong Domestic helpers
Singapore Healthcare, bio-pharmaceutical manufacturing and ICT workers (programmers); lab technicians, nurses, physiotherapists
South Korea Electronics workers
Kazakhstan Technical and skilled workers in oil, construction, and energy sectors
Macau Casino and gaming operators, hotel and restaurant, domestic help, nursing and caregiving, university instructors and security personnel

United States of America

Teachers, nurses
Canada Nurses, medical personnel, construction workers, caregivers

United Kingdom

Medical and paramedical workers like nurses, midwives, medical technologists, caregivers; restaurant workers
Ireland Hotel and catering jobs
Slovenia Nurses
Croatia Hotel and tourism workers

Source: POEA
The table showed that there exists several job opportunities for Filipinos intending to work overseas. Presented below are the contributing factors leading to improve prospects for Filipinos.

Middle East

The Middle East has long been a traditional job market for our Filipino workers. Around 300 thousand Filipinos were deployed annually to the Middle East with Saudi Arabia accounting for almost two-thirds of total OFW deployment to the region. For 2004, the Gulf States will continue to employ Filipino workers as new demands for their services surfaced.

The Iraq Reconstruction Program after the war necessitates large infrastructure projects causing the escalation on the need for more construction workers.

The expected economic boom in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar due to the presence of the US forces, increased gas and oil production, and the forthcoming Asian Games hosting by Qatar also provide added opportunities for our countrymen.

In Abu Dhabi, Filipinos have something to look forward to, on account of new projects being launched. The Dubai Mall project is keen on hiring Filipino professionals and skilled workers to take part in its construction. The Abu Dhabi University is also eyeing the services of Filipino librarians, administrative staff and cafeteria service crew. Filipino medical personnel have the inside track to land jobs with the setting-up of at least five first-class hospitals in that Gulf State.

Even in Israel, aside from the traditional caregiver jobs, prospects for increased deployment of tourism workers look brighter with the opening of the Eliat resort city to the entry of foreign workers.


The Asian labor market looks brighter in view of positive developments in the various parts of the region.

In Hong Kong prospects of economic growth, increased labor force participation rate (specially the women), increased median of monthly domestic household income and preferenceof young Chinese families and expatriates for

Filipino domestic helpers are factors that augur well for Filipino workers.

The policy thrust of the Japanese government to tap foreign human resources on management, research and technology offer prospect for English teachers, engineers and ICT professionals.

Filipinos have the edge in capturing a larger share of the Taiwanese market. The gradual recovery of its economy; continued ban by Taiwan on Indonesian labor; recommendation to ban Vietnamese workers due to absconding Taiwan's 5-year NT$500 billion public construction package; opening up of the labor market to foreign professionals; preference for Filipinos in electronics, manufacturing and industries whichskilled labor; and continuous demand for IT workers and caretakers are factors contributory to greater demand for Filipino workers.

Singapore. Recent developments in the country provided the impetus for the entry of Filipino workers. Foremost of these is the relaxation of policy on foreign workers that will allow sectors short of skilled workers to get needed skills. Preference of multinational companies to establish regional outsourcing operations in the country where Indians and Filipinos are the main operators of the growing ICT industry; the move to make the country a premier regional healthcare hub industry;MNCs setting up pharmaceutical research centers; issuance of foreign work pass (S-pass) by 01 July 2004 to meet labor shortfalls in specific occupations are added factors that opened up greater opportunities for Filipinos.

South Korea. The South Korean market is also a viable labor market. This is in view of recent agreements and stipulations forged between the two countries to include: the Memorandum ofUnderstanding on Cooperation on the exchange of IT Human Resources between the POEA and the Promising Information and Communication Companies Association (PICCA); the MOU between DOLE-Philippines and the Ministry of Labor-Korea on the sending of workers to Korea; the work permit system implementation by August 2004; and the continuation of the Alien Training System.

Kazakhstan. During the State Visit of Kazakhstan President Nazarbayev to the Philippines, his government offered employment to Filipino technical and professional experts thru cooperative projects in the oil, energy and construction sectors. This is well embodied in the RP-KazakhstanJoint Declaration on Friendship and Cooperation forged as a result of his visit.
Macau. The country opens up the entry of foreign labor due to skills shortage in identified occupations to boost their manpower stock.

Europe and Americas

In 2004, there will be continuing demand for nurses and healthcare workers due to aging population of developed countries (such as UK, Ireland ,NetherlandsNorway, US and Canada). These countries are experiencing insufficient supply of medical workerscoupled with agrowing demand for services in homecare, outpatient, surgical centers, etc.

The United States of America needs 2.8 million new teachers up to 2008 due to teacher attrition, class size reduction increased enrollment in the US. Data estimates showed thatFlorida alone will have a shortage of 38,000 teachers (2002-2006). Demandfor nurses in the US is also projected to increase by 25.3% (2000-2010).

Canada is projected to hire 59,000-113,000 nurses up to year 2011. Demand for medical and construction workers, aside from caregivers is also peaking.

UK and Ireland remain a very good market for highly skilled workers, particularly in the medical and paramedical fields like nurses, midwives, medical technologists, and caregivers. Government authorities in both countries assured POEA that the EU will not immediately replace foreign nurses and will take at least five years to do so. Expansion program for hiring of Filipino chefs by Japanese restaurants in London also posed additional prospects.

In Ireland, high-end jobsand low end-jobs in hotel and catering are still open to foreign workers that Filipinos could very well capitalize.

Slovenia is fast-gaining as a potential market for nurses in the near future given the results of the Parliamentary discussions on the national health program in October 2003 aimed at addressing the increasing medical needs of Slovenians. The need to comply with the standards for medical benefits under the EUushered in opportunities for the likely entry of Filipino medical workers.

Croatia. The positive accomplishments of Phil. Hon. Consul Davor Stern, in working out on economic plans to liberalize entry of foreign labor and investments in Croatia and with the presentboom in hotel and tourism industry lead to the opening of new frontiers for our workers in these sectors.

What are the Specific Requirements of the Overseas Job Market?
The overseas labor market is becoming complex as it is now requiring specialized competencies of workers. A set of special qualifications for certain occupations are now being taken into consideration by prospective employers. Below is a matrix of qualifications for certain occupations as required by labor-accepting countries:

Occupation Country Skills/ Knowledge Language
Household Workers/ Caregivers Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Cultural adaptability
Skills training
Household Workers/ Caregivers Kuwait Cultural adaptability
Skills training
Household Workers/ Caregivers Lebanon Cultural adaptability
Skills training
Household Workers/ Caregivers Israel Cultural adaptability
Skills training
Management of geriatric illnesses
Household Workers/ Caregivers Hong Kong Cultural adaptability
Skills training
Computer training, elderly and pet care
Household Workers/ Caregivers Taiwan Cultural adaptability
Skills training
Mandarin/ Cantonese
Household Workers/ Caregivers Malaysia Cultural adaptability
Skills training (Basic knowledge of Malaysian culture, laws and racial sensitivities)
English or Bahasa Malaysia
Household Workers/ Caregivers Japan Cultural adaptability
Skills training
Household Workers/ Caregivers Canada Cultural adaptability
Skills training
Household Workers/ Caregivers Jordan Cultural adaptability
Skills training
Hospitality Sector (casino workers) Macau Skills training Cantonese/Mandarin
Professional and Technical trainees Japan Cultural Adaptability Nippongo (Language)
Proficiency Training

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has advised Filipino placement and recruitment agencies as well as training providers to be wary about the market pressures being imposed by recipient countries to foreign workers. In particular, the POEA cautioned Filipino workers as well as agencies who have stakes in OFW deployment to be on the look-out for emerging threats to overseas employment, to include:

  • Mandatory skills training of Indonesian domestic helpers prior to deployment
  • Acceptance of lower wages and payment of higher placement fees practiced by some labor-sending countries
  • Some labor-sending countries are already learning English/Chinese
  • Specific Malaysian requirement for all labor sending countries to sign a bilateral agreement under new terms and conditions on the recruitment of foreign workers aside from the mandatory country specific training program for foreign workers
  • Requirement of some countries for foreign language, cultural and other country-specific training programs in addition to skills proficiency

Impact on Policy

Given the global labor market pressures, specific policy decisions must be formulated in order to effectively prepare our workers to cope with emerging competency requirements. Qualification of workers must now include knowledge and appreciation of cultural values of the receiving countries aside from language proficiency. Thus, placement agencies and institutions that cater to specific requirements must ensure that the workers are properly equipped with the requisite skills and knowledge. The Pre-Employment and Pre-Departure Orientation Seminars of workers shall ascertain that they are well-informed of the prevailing conditions and environment in the receiving country.

With this labor market pressures, these would lead to the setting up of language and cultural centers that will cater to the needs of a particular country.

This article was based on the labor market trends compiled by POEA and from the results of the Meeting on Training, Testing, and Certification for Overseas Filipino Workers.

MISG-Planning Office, July 2004.