High recruitment fees still burden OFWs – ADB

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OFWs relax in Central on their day off

RECRUITMENT fees continue to burden overseas Filipino workers before and after their deployment, a report by the Asian Development Bank showed.

In its report titled “Safeguarding the Rights of Asian Migrant Workers from Home to the Workplace,” the ADB said loopholes in existing laws have allowed recruiters to exploit OFWs by inflating recruitment fees.

The ADB added that OFWs suffer heavy salary cuts and direct payments, or take “large loans requiring repayment at high interest rates” due to these “excessive” recruitment fees.

“Existing legislation is often inadequate or has loopholes that raise migration costs. Most Asian migration legislation, including that of the Philippines as an example, allows for levying of fees by private employment agencies,” the ADB said.

Philippine Overseas Employment Administration deputy administrator Aristodes Ruaro admitted that skilled workers can be charged recruitment fees under Republic Act 10022 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995.

“Under our rules, under the law, our recruitment agencies are only allowed to collect from skilled workers,” Ruaro said.

Some countries forbid the collection of any form of recruitment fees, among them the United States of America under H2B visas, United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway, the Netherlands, Japan, New Zealand, and the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia.

The POEA receives an average of 30 to 50 complainants, of which about 60 percent are cases of overcharging or problems with recruitment fees.

A separate ADB report titled “Firing Up Regional Brain Networks: The Promise of Brain Circulation in the ASEAN Economic Community” also underscored how the country’s education system and government policy are geared toward exporting highly-skilled labor, thus resulting in domestic labor shortages in key occupations.

“Filipino government efforts to promote the post-secondary and university-level education of its population were driven, at least in part, by the goal of exporting high-skilled workers,” the report said.

“While the amount of remittances sent by these workers is high ($27 billion in 2014), the government-sponsored emigration has had a negative side effect: it has contributed to domestic labor shortages, particularly in skilled occupations such as nursing, engineering, and aviation,” ADB said.

The ADB noted that the Philippines experienced the largest brain drain among the ASEAN member-states with 64 percent of highly-skilled workers leaving the country in 2010.

“While fewer than 10 percent of migrant adults in Cambodia and Malaysia have a tertiary education, 64 percent of those in the Philippines do,” said ADB.

The Philippines sends 52 percent of its highly educated population to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries.

“Migrants respond to other countries’ higher wages and better working conditions, prospects for professional development and continuous education, and opportunities to work with other skilled persons in talent clusters,” ADB said

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