The social costs of migration

(The Philippine Star) | Updated January 19, 2015 – 12:00am


Family unity is a recurring theme in the visit of Pope Francis. The family, which is important in every individual’s overall wellbeing, faces pressures on various fronts, the pope said as he urged the faithful to keep families together.

Among the threats the pope identified was a phenomenon familiar to Filipinos: migration to find better employment. Within the country, poverty drives people to try their luck in urban centers. Teenagers drop out of school and leave home to work as maids or contractual workers in cities to help their families. Some girls and even boys end up as sex workers.

Apart from urban migration, the country has become one of the world’s largest exporters of labor. From blue-collar workers to sailors, health professionals and financial managers, Filipinos are finding jobs overseas. Some do it for adventure, but most are forced to work abroad for lack of decent alternatives in their own country. A number of them are vulnerable to labor exploitation, physical and sexual abuse.

The estimated 10 million overseas Filipino workers remit billions annually, accounting for a significant chunk of national production, but the social costs of the OFW phenomenon are well documented. Children are growing up without one or both parents. Marriages are breaking up, with spouses unable to withstand long periods of separation. The extended family, which provides a healthy support network for the very young, the elderly and infirm, is weakening.

Pope Francis’ warning about the social toll of migration should inspire the country’s leadership to intensify efforts to create meaningful jobs, and not just in urban centers.

Various sectors have listed what can be done along this line. Manufacturing, agriculture, tourism and creative arts are some of the areas where decent employment and livelihood opportunities can be created. Improving the quality of universal education empowers the masses and is crucial in poverty alleviation.

Pope Francis leaves the country today, surely with fond memories of the rapturous welcome he has received from Filipinos. He will be even happier if that passionate display of affection can translate into solid action that will address his concern for those who have less in life.

Source: https://www.philstar.com/opinion/2015/01/19/1414367/editorial-social-costs-migration

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