Monday, August 20, 2007

Quantifying Migration Under Globalization

In a country like the Philippines, beset as it is with stubborn economic problems exacerbated by sticky and shaky political institutions, the human component of globalization figures very prominently and is quite known and accepted generally. While a vocal minority emanating from academia and the media may not cease to balk at what globalization (as personified negatively by the WTO) has wrought to many distressed local economic sectors, this least-noticed offshoot of globalization races on unabated.

Inward foreign currency remittances coming from human labor exports (OFWs, for short in the Philippines), including from many long-time Filipino ex-pats scattered throughout the globe, account for at least 12% of the country’s GDP. Unchecked in its continuing upward trend dating back many years, the annual figure now stands at US$13.6 billion for 2006, with 60-65% originating from the US alone. More are unaccounted because they do not go through established financial channels.

But all this time, we have not really known what the global total was for this unexpected phenomenon brought about essentially by globalization. From a WorldBank source now we know that the current annual total stands at US$276 billion (for 2006).

To lend perspective to this huge global total, this amount is a lot larger than the annual trade imbalance the US has with one of its major trading partners, China, which accounts for 26% of the US total trade imbalances with the world.

Not surprisingly, the report further reveals that India tops the list with about US$27 billion, which is double the figure for the Philippines. Understandably, in a country with over one billion people in population, its overseas citizens’ sheer numbers translate to more inward dollars or foreign exchange.

Here in the US, we have known that Mexicans here, both legal and illegal, send a total annual amount more than its oil revenues, and now we know that that same amount is also more than its direct foreign investments. “Remittances "are larger than direct foreign investment in Mexico, tea exports in Sri Lanka, tourism revenue in Morocco, and revenue from the Suez Canal in Egypt," World Bank economist Dilip Ratha said in a recent report. “

But this traceable phenomenon is not unique only to some countries because it is happening in most countries in the globe. From Albania and Latvia, to Poland, to unknown Moldova and from populous countries like Mexico.

While the astronomical money figures will singularly astound the world, one cannot help think that they represent the value of adult human labor done in foreign countries. One cannot help consider the many aggravating personal circumstances being inflicted on those who perform the labor. Where young productive mothers and fathers are wrenched away from their families for long periods of time on end and transported to foreign countries to earn their living. Families chopped to pieces and missing their heads, physically absent to care for and to nurture their vulnerable families.

Thus, while the impressive cornucopia of liquid cash coming from abroad invigorates local communities with former residents working abroad, there are serious trade-offs involved. True, many local communities across the globe have seen many economic transformations, from new spanking houses to new small businesses sprouting, and maybe even better citizens out of former residents who return to their homelands. But one doubts whether one could assess the telling blows on the families of those affected until maybe a generation later.

And worse, because this shift in population self-perpetuates until the home country is able to correct the very imbalances that brought about the mass exodus, such as dismal lack of domestic jobs and necessary economic and social infrastructures needed to bring about or sustain an economy of growth.


  1. So, are you saying that countries like Mexico and the Philippines without the possibility of overseas jobs would have no societal "pressure relief valves?" Can you imagine how different things would be here in the Phils if the hope of going abroad was taken away from the thousands of educated "have nots?" It isn't just money sent home that Mexican and Philipine governments value. The REAL worth is in the "self exile" or "voluntary self deportation" of potential malcontents and rabble rousers. Instead of working their asses off all over the world, they'd be right here at home fomenting rebellion, and rightly so as far as I'm concerned. You KNOW that's right!

  2. Phil, global migration is now an unalterable trend because globalization has changed the way countries conduct business.

    Granted that this trend has been present since man started congregating in groups or societies, but at no time in his short history has the population movement been so marked and significant.

    Striking a balance between economic benefits and social trade-offs would be an appropriate measure to help the movement along.


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