Philippines suffering from migrant brain drain

Aug 5th, 2010 | By admin | Category: Featured

MANILA (AFP) — The Philippines is suffering a crippling brain drain with many of its most talented and qualified workers heading overseas for higher-paid jobs and better lifestyles, employers say.

The shock resignations last week of 25 Philippine Airlines pilots, who left for bigger salaries abroad, highlighted a trend that is changing the stereotype of overseas Filipinos being simply maids, sailors and labourers.

Scientists, engineers, doctors, IT specialists, accountants and even teachers are among the English-speaking talent heading to foreign lands, leaving the government and private companies scrambling to find replacements.

“There is a skills haemorrhage. We are losing workers in the highly professional and skilled categories,” Vicente Leogardo, director-general of the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines, told AFP.

The pilots who quit for jobs in the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia would have in some cases nearly tripled their salaries, Airline Pilots Association of the Philippines president Elmer Pena told AFP.

“The salary here is a lot smaller than in other countries. You can’t really compare it,” he said.

Civil engineer Paris Chuchana joined the exodus two years ago when he moved his family to Singapore so he could take a job earning about 1,600 US dollars a month, five times more than the maximum salary he could expect at home.

Like many expatriates, Chuchana enjoys the lifestyle outside his homeland, which suffers from pervasive corruption, poor infrastructure and frequent natural disasters.

“I was just on vacation, visiting my aunt here, but I found I liked it, so I resigned from my job in the Philippines and came over,” Chuchana told AFP by telephone from Singapore, adding he had no intention of returning home soon.

“My first kid is entering high school so I am already preparing for college.”

The nine million Filipinos who work overseas — about one tenth of the nation’s population — in both high and low-skilled sectors undoubtedly play a crucial role in propping up the nation’s spluttering economy.

Last year they sent home 17.3 billion dollars to relatives or for investment, making up more than 10 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, according to government data.

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