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[Opinion] Filipino Housemaids

Posted February. 28, 2006 02:59,   


“It’s difficult to find a job here. If I don’t do anything, we’ll just go hungry,” said a Filipino woman according to the Washington Post. She had been waiting in line for three hours in front of an overseas employment center trying to find a job in Korea. A daily average of 2,500 Filipinos leave their country to find a job abroad, and career women who have graduated from college end up working, if they are lucky, as nurses or housemaids. The money that 10 million Filipinos working abroad wire home is literally feeding the Philippines. Such money wired from overseas accounts for 12 percent of the Philippines’ GDP, an amount parallel to the Philippines’ annual exports.

Manila’s Edsa Avenue, the site of People Power 20 years ago, is now more famous for its overseas employment center. The hope and confidence gained by overthrowing dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 have long been overshadowed by anger and disappointment. People Power once again overthrew the corrupt president Joseph Estrada in 2001, and the current president Gloria Arroyo is also under pressure and facing the same charges. Foreign media outlets report that the Filipino people now consider democracy as something foolish. They are growing more tired of their poverty than of corruption or rigged elections.

The unstable political situation is dragging down the Philippines’ economy. In 1898, only people with property were given the right to vote. So, the money and power are concentrated in the local wealthy class. Politicians are more busy making connections with political leaders than concerned about their party and the welfare of the people. In order to compensate for campaigning costs, corruption and tax evasion are inevitable. The congress that legislated about 1,000 new laws during the four years after the overthrow of President Marcos has only processed 76 bills in that period after 2001. The reason for People Power was that politics did not speak for the people.

Until the early 1950’s, the GDP per capita of the Philippines was three-times that of Korea. Now the situation has changed, and the GDP per capita of the Philippines is one-third of Korea’s. Since politicians do not look after the people, social infrastructure is bare, taxes are uncollected, and government debts have soared. If foreign and domestic investments are not promoted, jobs will disappear. In order not to starve, they have to go abroad and work as maids. There is no time to be wasted on political fighting, otherwise Korean housemaids might also be exported.

Kim Soon-deok, Editorial Writer, yuri@donga.com