Danica M. Uy, Businessworld, Feb. 7, 2017
THE Philippine education system and government policy are geared towards exporting highly skilled labor, resulting in domestic labor shortages in key occupations, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) reported.
“Filipino government efforts to promote the postsecondary and university-level education of its population were driven, at least in part, by the goal of exporting high-skilled workers,” according to a February report, “Firing Up Regional Brain Networks: The Promise of Brain Circulation in the ASEAN Economic Community.”
“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.
According to the bank, the Philippines experienced the largest brain drain among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with 64% of highly skilled workers leaving the country in 2010.
“While fewer than 10% of migrant adults in Cambodia and Malaysia have a tertiary education, 64% of those in the Philippines do,” said ADB.
According to ADB, most of these highly skilled workers left for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as tourists.
“This route allows individuals to bypass government recruitment programs (which are time-consuming and costly) and the need to look for an employer that can sponsor them for an intracompany transfer or other employment visa,” read the report as registration systems are tedious and tightly regulated by domestic laws.
The Philippines sends 52% of its highly educated population to Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 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.”
However, despite these problems, ADB said that “brain circulation” is important to ASEAN countries with skill and talent shortages.
“Put differently, no ASEAN country can be self-sufficient when it comes to talent,” said ADB.
“Furthermore, and unlike in the past, professionals are moving to a range of countries within ASEAN, not just to the most wealthy. These concurrent trends suggest that ASEAN Member States may increasingly both send and receive skilled persons,” it added.
According to the bank, growth in the number of people attaining a university degree has grown in 30 years across all countries in the ASEAN.
The Philippines was able to grow its university enrollees 94.6% from 1990 to 2011.
Data from the report showed that 5.5% of the Filipino population aged over 15 completed tertiary education in 2010, a lower percentage compared with the 8.2% recorded in 1980.
The country has also been successful in terms of finishing high school with 23.8% of the population aged over 15 able to complete secondary schooling in 2010 compared with the 13.1% recorded 30 years before.
ADB also expects the country’s labor force to continue to grow over the next few decades, along with other ASEAN such as Cambodia, Indonesia and Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) and this growth is “likely to encourage people of working age-including the highly educated to move within the region.” —