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IOM Philippines’ Report Reveals Challenges of Returned Overseas Filipino Workers Due to COVID-19

IOM UN Migration

MANILA, 20 May 2021 – The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a 75 per cent reduction in deployment of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in 2020, which constitutes the lowest deployment number in over three decades. Furthermore, the number of returning OFWs reached nearly 800,000 by the end of December 2020, according to the government’s statistics.

On 20 May 2021, The International Organization for Migration (IOM) Philippines launched the report, COVID-19 Impact Assessment on Returned Overseas Filipino Workers, which is based on interviews with over 8,000 returned OFWs.

The report, part of IOM’s global response to COVID-19 to better understand the challenges as well as the needs of migrant workers, shows that 67 per cent of the assessed OFWs’ decision to return was due to COVID-19, while a very significant 83 per cent of OFWs were unemployed for an average of three months post-arrival. The report also shows that almost half of OFWs had a 60 per cent drop in their household income upon return.

“The ongoing global COVID-19 crisis and border restrictions continue to have an adverse impact on human mobility with migrant workers and their remittance-dependent communities being some of the most vulnerable groups,” said Kristin Dadey, IOM Philippines Chief of Mission.

“Understanding the impacts of COVID-19 on OFWs and their families is critical to identify emerging gaps in migration governance and international cooperation adhering to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. Findings of the report could support key stakeholders in developing migrant-centered policies and programs with the most recent and relevant information,” continued Dadey.

As Coordinator and Secretariat of the United Nations Network on Migration in the Philippines, IOM has conducted various studies on the impact of COVID-19 on migration to support policy makers and has provided direct assistance to the government’s repatriation efforts.

The report seeks to further complement this initiative by informing future programmes on international recruitment, migrant worker protection in times of crises, and reintegration of returned OFWs. Collected data is also used to map out returning OFW mobility flows and identify sociodemographic patterns of migration and needs, preferences, skills and experiences of returned OFWs.

“COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges for OFWs and highlighted their existing vulnerabilities. There is a particular need to leverage data and analysis collected into policies that will fill existing gaps in migrants’ welfare and safety,” said Gustavo Gonzalez, the UN’s Resident Coordinator and Chair of the UN Network on Migration in the Philippines, echoing the significance of the report.

Hans Cacdac, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Administrator expressed his appreciation to IOM and the UN Network on Migration in the Philippines for its efforts and cited that the report is useful especially in responding to unforeseen crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. “The COVID-19 Impact Assessment on Returned Overseas Filipino Workers will be a key tool in the government’s formulation of future policies and programmes for OFWs,” he said.

The assessment and report were supported with funding from the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany and produced in partnership with the OWWA.

The full report is available here.

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