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Global Economic Slowdown Hurts Migrant Workers


While much of the news about the global financial crisis has focused on failed Wall Street banks, migrant workers and their families around the world are starting to feel the pain of slower economic growth. Pros Laput traces how the crisis affects Filipino migrants overseas and their families back home. He visited New York, Hong Kong and the Philippines and compiled this report, narrated by Kate Pound Dawson.

The U.S. economy is suffering its worst crisis since the 1930s. What began as a slump in the housing market has exploded into a global credit crisis.

Unemployment in the United States is at a 14-year high and is expected to worsen. This is bad news for the millions of immigrants in the United States, particularly those who send money to their families in their home countries.

In Woodside, Queens, the heart of the Filipino community in New York, everyone is worried, because the state of the economy here has repercussions back home.

Edilyn Recibe, who has lived in New York for 10 years, has cut back on the money she sends to her family in the Philippines.

Recibe says that if you lose your job here, it's a big problem.

Her relatives back home are worried, because they see news reports about the weak U.S. economy.

Recibe says her sister told her to keep her money because she heard from the news that many people in America are losing their jobs.

As Americans cut spending, demand for Asian exports slows down, which means Asian economies slow down. And in banking centers such as Hong Kong, the credit crunch and the collapse of several international banks causes extra pain.

More than 130,000 Filipinos live in Hong Kong, most of them employed as domestic workers.

Abe de Ramos is a financial analyst in the city.

"We have already seen some unemployment in the financial sector and in the trading sector," Ramos said. "With greater unemployment within these households, they would have lesser capacity to hire (a) domestic worker."

Filipino workers around the world sent more than $14 billion to the Philippines in 2007 - equal to 13 percent of the gross domestic product. So, lower remittances will hurt the economy.

In Dapitan, a small city in the southern Philippines, remittances helped jump-start the local construction industry.

Alice Balladares has a new two-story concrete house with a garage, built with money sent by her daughter in the Middle East.

Like many, she faces two problems: increasing costs because of inflation, and shrinking remittances because the U.S. dollar buys fewer Philippine pesos.

Balladares says, yes, the family has a beautiful house but the problem is meeting their daily needs.

Like many around the world who depend on remittances, she has had to cut down on spending.

But Raymond Regner, whose company handles money transfers to the Philippines in New York, says remittances may not slow significantly because Filipinos have a strong sense of responsibility toward their families.

Regner says that no matter what happens, a Filipino will send money, even if there's nothing left for himself. He says they send money because people rely on them.

But many families in the Philippines are not so confident that they, and their relatives overseas, will escape the effects of the weakening economy.

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