Top 5 Most Common OFW Problems

Overseas Filipino workers (OFW) have long been tagged as the modern-day heroes. Their remittances solve a lot of problems both for the nation and for their family. But when the OFWs themselves encounter problems, it almost always end up badly. Why? Because rarely is it ever noticed until it is too late and the OFW family is just about ready to be torn apart.

Also Read: 8 Reasons Why You Should NOT Work as an OFW

Typically, problems are solved when the party who encounters it starts acknowledging the problem which allows them to address it appropriately. For most OFWs, however, there is a very high likelihood that people will ignore the problem. Regardless of the number of support and counseling services that the government and non-government organizations offer, if the OFW or their families would refuse the chance to an open and honest communication in the presence of a counselor, the stress will keep pestering the entire family, eventually breaking it up.

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The same is true, with every other problems related to overseas work. An OFW should know or at least try to learn how to cope with stress by learning how to communicate with people and deal with situations in and out of work without hurting anybody.

To make it easier to recognize and address these problems, we rounded up a list of the most common OFW problems and the expert-suggested ways to address and hopefully solve them.

1. Family

Problematic and abusive in-laws, cheating spouses, and rebellious children – these are just some of the most common familial issues OFWs face. As most OFWs are worried about their kids, sometimes, there’s still the problem of extramarital affairs among  spouses and the in-laws who like to throw their weight around when the breadwinner is not around. Aside from the physical distance that leaves the OFW and the families lonely and sometimes misguided, there’s the mental and emotional distress caused by the separation that sometimes makes temptation look very appealing.

Why it’s happening:
Loneliness, overwhelming physical needs, peer pressure, and the feeling of freedom away from prying eyes of husbands or wives, or mothers or fathers, all make up for the perfect recipe for trouble. For spouses, it could mean extra marital affairs leading to separation but for their kids, it usually means fail to finish their studies for reasons like early pregnancy, unwillingness to go to school, or drugs and other vices.

How it can be solved:
Devotion to spouses and strong family values help prevent broken families. Positive distractions such as participation of wholesome civic activities (basketball leagues, serving Sunday masses, etc.) and proper guidance and motivation can deter these things from wrecking the OFW home.

2. Money (Loans and Debts, Lack of savings)

High placement fees, offloading at Philippine airports, lavish lifestyle, attachment to friends and gadgets, infidelity, failed business deals, and scammer friends and strangers – these are the major reasons for the migrant Filipino workers’ money problems.

Filipinos applying as domestic helpers in Hong Kong are also charged exorbitant fees, sometimes amounting to as much as P150,000 placement fees. Aside from exorbitant fees, sometimes, they even get swindled out of their rightful contracts, leaving them suffering abroad.

Ona personal level, OFWs cope with anxiety and homesickness by making friends. In some cases, OFW friends have issues and need money urgently, to which most OFWs are only too happy to oblige. Sometimes, even family-managed businesses back home fail to grow which eventually leads to family relationships turning sour.

Why it’s happening:
Lack of enforcement of existing government laws about limiting the placement fee collection and the lack of awareness about where their money go, lack of knowledge regarding putting up a business and improper market targeting and positioning.

How it can be solved:
Educating would-be domestic helpers and the rest of the Filipino migrant workers on their rights and the ways to report agencies that collect outrageously high fees as well as how these violations will be punished, teaching them about financial management, healthy planning, and discipline regarding limits on expenses can easily solve this for problems.

3. Illegal recruitment and Employer abuse

Many Filipinos who work abroad forego checking with the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) because of the smooth-talking illegal recruiters could lead to unprotected employment. This will eventually lead to unreported abuse from employers who are only too willing to dish out physical or verbal abuse, sexual harassment, or racial discrimination. In addition to this, embassy officials and consular officers are sometimes unable to attend to the pleas of all distressed worker, especially if they are illegal migrants.

Why it’s happening:
Lack of education and awareness on how to evade illegal recruiters, lack of law enforcement in host country, little or no assistance from OWWA officers are some main culprits for many Filipinos’ fall to overseas doom.

How it can be solved:
Common sense, education, and guidance from government agencies, more labor attaches and consulate officials especially in far areas, along with strict implementation of government measures should be enough to help would-be OFWs get a safe and legitimate job abroad.

4. Dwindling value of Philippine peso

It is ironic that as the greater volume of dollar remittance to the Philippines grows, the less value per dollar it becomes. That’s because, with increased dollar reserves, the value of the greenback weakens against the peso. Since salaries are paid at foreign currencies affected by the dollar-peso exchange rate, the peso value of salaries of OFWs decreases.

Why it’s happening:
OFWs send more money for education, paying bills, savings, and investment purposes.

How it can be solved:
If ‘solving’ means a higher value of the dollar against the peso, this requires government action. This includes increasing imports (which likely use US dollars to pay for commodities) or offloading dollar reserves to pay for external debt. If ‘solving’ means maintaining the peso value of remittances, OFWs asking for higher pay for their jobs is likely the most straightforward way.

5. Landing in jail for crimes they did not commit.

Sometimes OFWs get into trouble and at times they bear the punishment for the offense they did not make.

Why it’s happening:
Jealousy or mistaken identity, or simply framed to take the fall.

How it can be solved:
Stay away from places where risks or riots may take place. Stay away from friends who could easily get in trouble. Pray for protection.

Surely, there are other problems that plague the Filipino migrant workers. These issues, whether it affects everyone or not, are risks that come with working abroad. The solutions offered within may help, but nothing will work as well as being prepared, being prayerful, and sticking with what is right.

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