Overseas Filipinos - An Economic Lifeline

There is an estimated 12 million Filipinos overseas, including Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). OFWs refer to Filipino citizens who are residing in foreign countries for reasons of employment. The money they send back home supports millions of households and is an economic lifeline to the country, contributing almost 10% of GDP.

From construction workers to domestic workers, many Filipino men and women go to work overseas in large numbers for better opportunities and higher wages. From nurses in Britain to construction workers in Japan, hotel staff in Singapore, and service workers in the UAE, overseas Filipino workers have fanned out to different parts of the world. Each year about 19,000 nurses, certified and fresh from language training, are deployed to hospitals around the world. Educational institutions and vocational schools in the Philippines funnel students into industries likeliest to get them a job abroad. Merchant marine academies churn out thousands of graduates yearly. Several government agencies deal with the migration of registered workers, negotiate international labor terms, and assist workers when a diplomatic row flares up or a war breaks out. There were 1.8 M OFWs in 2020, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA); this was down from 2.2 M in 2019 as many were repatriated as a result of the pandemic. Deployment picked up in 2021 as economies reopened.

In 2021, total personal remittances amounted to US$31.4 B, equivalent to 8.9% of the country’s GDP. The United States accounted for the largest share at 40.5%, followed by Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and the UK.  According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP),  the increase from 2020 levels was due to “strong demand for OFWs amid the reopening of host-economies to foreign workers, and the continued shift to digital support that facilitated inward transfer of remittances.”

Here are some statistics on Overseas Filipino Workers:

About the Author

Jun De Dios
EVP for Growth & Strategy | Profile

Jun De Dios is our EVP for Growth & Strategy and he is also our Country Manager for Philippines. Jun was the CEO for AkzoNobel in Vietnam from 2008-13, and then CEO in Indonesia, before being appointed Cluster Director for Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands over the period 2013-2019.


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