News / Asia

Q&A with Robyn Rodriguez: ‘Migrants for Export’

FILE - Filipino job seekers look at job openings posted on a board inside a Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) in Manila.
FILE - Filipino job seekers look at job openings posted on a board inside a Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) in Manila.

Migrant workers from the Philippines seem to be employed everywhere in a variety of jobs, with eight million Filipinos working in almost two hundred countries. Robyn Rodriguez, an Associate Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Davis, discussed her book Migrants for Export with VOA’s Jim Stevenson. In these excerpts from their conversation, she talks about investigating how and why the Philippine government actively prepares, mobilizes, and regulates its citizens for migrant work abroad.

Q&A with Robyn Rodriguez: ‘Migrants for Export’
Q&A with Robyn Rodriguez: ‘Migrants for Export’i
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X

RODRIGUEZ: One day, I happened to be sitting in traffic. Of course, anybody who has been to Manila knows that one sits in traffic for hours on end and I happened to be sitting in traffic right next to a school. And I remembered looking out the window and seeing what looked like a mural painted in front of the school with a picture of then-President Fidel Ramos. It was quoting him, something to the effect of “wherever you are, around the world, raise your head up high, because you are always Filipino.” I found that really striking, because the assumption behind the quote was that people were always going to be going around the world. Somehow, migration has become just so normal, expected, almost natural. That triggered a series of questions for me. One was, what explains this global phenomenon of Filipino migration? How does it happen? What are the impacts for migrant workers themselves?

STEVENSON: You mention in your book nearly 10 percent of the population is employed in almost 200 countries. How does that relate to other nations? The Philippines obviously is out in the middle of the ocean, a very interesting scenario for them to exporting a good chunk of their population.

RODRIGUEZ: That was my quest, right, partly to understand that exactly. There are several explanations for it, and this is what the book is all about. The Philippine government is primarily responsible for the global export of the Philippine workers. The Philippine government, actually in the 1970s, formally instituted a policy of labor export. That was done by then-President Ferdinand Marcos, and once he instituted the policy, that gave rise to a bunch of institutions that are tasked in what I call the export of Philippine workers. I sometimes refer to it as a kind of bureaucratic assembly line.

It’s through this apparatus that Filipinos learn about job prospects because part of what this assembly line does is try to locate markets for Philippine workers, and all of that market information actually mobilizes people so that it facilitates migration.

You said it, the Philippines is in the middle of the Pacific, it’s an archipelago, and yet there are Filipinos who work on nearly every country of the world. And of course, [their a] major source of foreign exchange for the Philippine government. Based on the latest statistics in 2013, nearly 23 billion U.S. dollars was remitted by overseas Filipinos.

STEVENSON: It’s an intersection of both the economy and job creation, and also, the social aspect of it which you’re addressing. If there are not enough jobs at home, it’s a great way to get people employed by sending them where the jobs are.

RODRIGUEZ: Absolutely, it’s a great political strategy, isn’t it? I mean, it’s sort of a way that the Philippine government can “promise” jobs; that these aren’t necessarily jobs at home, they’re jobs abroad. In a lot of ways I feel, that what they call “labor brokerages” is that it’s very much a political strategy, as much as it also generates all these economic benefits, in terms of foreign exchange generation, kind of the way that the Philippine government kind of deflects attention away from some of the really major structural problems. There are some protections that the Philippine government has introduced, several laws that are meant to protect migrant workers overseas. But I think it’s really important to note that these laws actually came as a consequence of migrants actually organizing, [pressing] the government for more protections.

STEVENSON: A lot of this work is very difficult, very back-breaking work and at a distance – they’re separated from their families which emotionally is very difficult.

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, exactly. I think what’s important is that despite the fact that, first, that I focus on the government kind of critique of Philippines over in policy, I think what I found most inspiring is that Philippine migrant workers are incredibly organized. They’ve really tried to, and have been quite successful in many ways in trying to push back against this policy that forces them to leave home and forces them to have to work these low wage jobs far away from their families. I really leave with sort of a positive note, of migrants organizing transnationally and representing a possibility for maybe something else. I think it’s not all a story of despair. It’s also a story of hope as people have taken the courage to stand up for themselves to assert their rights to being able to work dignified lives for the country from where they were born. 


Jim Stevenson

For over 35 years, Jim Stevenson has been sharing stories with the world on the radio and internet. From both the field and the studio, Jim enjoys telling about specific events and uncovering the interesting periphery every story possesses. His broadcast career has been balanced between music, news, and sports, always blending the serious with the lighter side.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid