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close this bookEmigration Pressures and Structural Change. Case Study of the Philippines (International Labour Organization, 1997, 56 p.)
close this folder6. Dimensions of labour emigration
View the document(introduction...)
View the document6.1. Emigration of labour for permanent settlement abroad
View the document6.2. Temporary emigration of contract workers
View the document6.3. Illegal and undocumented migrant labour


For the purposes of the this paper, there are two dimensions of labour emigration that need to be pegged down with finality of numbers: first, the regular outflow of labour in net terms from the Philippines; and second, the total stock of Filipino migrants outside the country at any point in time. Both numbers play a crucial role in strategising international migration in the medium term. Of course, the two numbers are directly related. If every outflow of labour had forever been recorded, as had every return, the cumulative balance of the annual differences between these outflows and returns would yield the outstanding stock of Filipino workers outside the country. But this is where the story begins, since there are no such series from the outset; there are no series at all for returning migrants of any kind; and though there are series for the annual outflows of Filipinos, they are partial in their coverage, and leave out of the reckoning some significant categories of external labour flows.24

24 Such gaps in the data for such an important national economic variable are surprising. Indeed, the current Medium-term Philippine Development Plan (1993-98) as well as the National Employment Plan which purports to be an integral component of this Plan exercise, develop their argumentation, targets and strategies with respect to employment generation totally excluding international out-migration from the statistical or policy frame. This means, in fact, that the Plan’s employment targets are not really consistent with reality.

It is against the backdrop of the complexity and incomplete enumeration of these migrations, that the problem of quantifying the flows, both outwards as well as return, has to be tackled. There are two separate tasks to accomplish: estimates of an overseas stock of Filipinos, and estimates of net outflows per year. Each is discussed below briefly.

Since a stock figure cannot be easily assembled from information from censuses from all receiving countries across the globe, estimates need to be made using fragmentary stock level data from earlier years, adjusted for incremental flows to the present. Three different streams of migrants need to be distinguished for this purpose. The permanent emigrants, the recorded (or documented, or official or legal) overseas workers, and third the unrecorded (or undocumented, unofficial or illegal) flows outwards. For each flow, both outward and return migrants would need counting. The present state of the art leaves something to be desired, since even for serious policy debate, attention is focussed almost exclusively on the figure for gross annual deployments of overseas contract workers, which constitute but one of the three pairs of flows listed above. These different flows (and stocks pertaining to them) are briefly discussed below, before returning to the question of an estimation of the total outstanding stock.