EVERY year, the country produces an average of 400,000 college graduates who go on to become highly skilled professionals and workers, a huge percentage of which are qualified to work abroad.
The joy that graduates experience as they march up to receive their diplomas soon vanishes as they discover the harsh difficulty in landing a job that matches their degree – if they nail a job at all.
The trouble starts when they begin looking for jobs. Every year, fresh graduates fight tooth and nail for the few availbale jobs with the past graduates who are still jobless. Hence, a fresh graduate of accountancy or engineering could end up being a call center agent. In fact, a good number of experienced workers also shift into this kind of work because of the lure of a higher pay.
The other option is to seek employment in countries with bigger economies, and with a more extensive industrial space. This trend is not new to us. We’ve been exporting experienced workers since the ’70s. The POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Agency) statistics reveal that more than 8 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are now spread across the globe in pursuit of more gainful employment. They comprise nearly 23 percent of the country’s labor force.
The US currently benefits from more than one million professionally-trained Filipinos, being the current world’s leading exporter of nurses, according to former health secretary Dr. Jaime Galvez-Tan. Eighty-five percent of the country’s trained nurses have already left the country to work abroad. Data from the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) also indicate that 4,000 Filipino doctors have shifted down to nursing to work abroad.
The other side of the coin is the fact that OFWs are a strong pillar in the country’s economy. OFWs are heroes in many ways. There is no blaming any Filipino who dreams of greener pastures because everyone has a right to the quality of life that they choose.
The threat however is that our country falls behind, and starts to lag in performance against our neighbors. The Philippines now has the highest incidence of brain drain among other countries in the Asia Pacific region. It’s a huge blow to the country’s investment in educating and employing its citizens.
Brain drain has been a glaring issue for years and years now. The government must wake up. Indeed, they are losing a lot of homegrown talents. Before it gets even worse, the government should learn to value and take extra care of our graduates. It should nurture, maximize the potentials, and give huge incentives to those who opt to stay.(AJ)