Overseas Filipino Worker

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Overseas Filipino Workers
Filipino Men at Work in Brunei.jpg
Overseas Filipino Workers in Brunei.
Total population
2.3 million[1] (2017)
Regions with significant populations
 Saudi Arabia 584,200
 United Arab Emirates 351,900
 Kuwait 154,100
 Hong Kong 149,500
 Qatar 126,500
 Singapore 121,900
Philippine languages, English, Arabic
Related ethnic groups
Filipinos (Overseas Filipinos)

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) is a term often used to refer to Filipino migrant workers, people with Filipino citizenship who resides in another country for a limited period for employment.


The term "Overseas Filipino Workers" (OFW) was used as early as 1990s to refer to Filipino migrant workers, when Republic Act 8042, also known as the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 was enacted. The term was officially adopted by the Philippine government when the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) adopted the 2002 POEA Rules and Regulations Governing the Recruitment and Employment of Land-based Overseas Workers. Historically, particularly during the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos when the term "Overseas Contract Workers" (OCW) was used.[2]

For statistics purposes, the term "Overseas Contract Workers" refers to OFWs with an active employment contract while OFWs who are not OCWs are migrant workers currently without a contract but had one within a given period of time.[1]


Early 1900s[edit]

Filipino migrant workers has been working outside the Philippine islands as early as the 1900s, when Filipino agricultural workers were deployed to Hawaii to satisfy temporary labor needs in the then-U.S. territory's agricultural sector. Filipino workers then went on to the Mainland United States to work in hotels, restaurants, and sawmills as well as get involved in railroad construction. They also worked in plantations in California and the canning industry of the then-American territory of Alaska. Some Filipinos also served in the U.S. Army during the World War II.[2]

Post World War II[edit]

Following the end of World War II, some Filipinos who served under the U.S. Army became American citizens. The United States also saw increased immigration of Filipino medical professionals, accountants, engineers and other technical workers after the war. From the 1950s to the 1960s. non-professional contract workers are being sent to other Asian countries; Artists, barbers, and musicians worked in Eastern Asia, and loggers worked in Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of the island of Borneo.[2]

Start of systemic migration[edit]

According to the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment, "active and systemic migration" of Filipinos for temporary employment began by the 1960s, when the United States Government, contractors of the United States Armed Forces and civilian agencies were recruiting Filipinos to work in jobs in the construction and service sector. They worked in select areas in the Pacific and Southeast Asia namely Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, and the U.S. territories of Guam and the Wake Island. [2]

More Filipino medical workers also began to search for work in Australia, Canada, and the United States which caused the Philippine government to come up with a new Labor Code in 1974 which included Filipino migrant workers in its scope. This labor code, also known as Presidential Decree 442, was issued by then-President Ferdinand Marcos shortly after the declaration of Martial Law. The decree formally established a recruitment and placement program "to ensure the careful selection of Filipino workers for the overseas labor market to protect the good name of the Philippines abroad". Three government agencies were created to attend the needs of Filipino migrant workers; the National Seamen Board, Overseas Employment Development Board, and the Bureau of Employment Services which were later merged in 1978 to create the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. Marcos' labor policy was meant to be a short-term employment program and decrease the country's need for foreign exchange.[2]

Construction workers and engineers also began to be recruited by multi-national companies in oil-rich nations in the Middle East which were then experiencing an economic boom.[2]

Post-People Power Revolution[edit]

After Ferdinand Marcos was removed from office following the People Power Revolution of February 1986, his successor then-President Corazon Aquino issued Executive Order No. 126 which renamed the Welfare Fund into the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). In 1995, the Republic Act 8042, the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act became law.[2]

Government policy[edit]

An official sample of an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) ID Card.

The Philippine government has stated officially for decades that it doesn't maintain a labor export policy and has continue to claim so as of 2012.


During the Presidency of Ferdinand Marcos, three government agencies were created to attend to the needs of Filipino migrant workers namely[2]:

  1. National Seamen Board (NSB) : To “develop and maintain a comprehensive program for Filipino seamen employed overseas"
  2. Overseas Employment Development Board (OEDB) – To “promote the overseas employment of Filipino workers through a comprehensive market and development program"
  3. Bureau of Employment Services (BES) - responsible for the regulation of “private sector participation in the recruitment of (local and overseas) workers."

In 1982, these three agencies were consolidated to create the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) which later became an attached agency to the Department of Labor and Employment.[2]


The Migrante Partylist has cited two reasons that the Philippine government has laid a more systemic labor export policy during the administration of then Ferdinand Marcos: To quell dissent brought about by massive domestic unemployment and the political crisis, and to consolidate foreign exchange from remittances.[2]


The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) is a government agency tasked to supervise labor recruitment agencies in the Philippines. Recruitment and deployment agencies are mandated by the POEA to monitor the situation of Overseas Filipino Workers; including if they are with their supposed employers and provide assistance to the Filipino worker in cases of emergency.[3]


Remittance sent by Overseas Filipino Workers to the Philippines from abroad are not itself subject to taxation by the Philippine government, which has no jurisdiction over foreign remittance, However Value Added Tax is imposed on transfer fees charged by the remittance companies[4] Under Presidential Decree No. 1183 and Republic Act No.8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Act of 1995, Overseas Filipino Workers are exempt from Travel Tax and Airport terminal fees when travelling outside the Philippines from within the country.[5]


Overseas Filipino Workers can only be legally deployed to countries certified by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs to be compliant to Republic Act 10022 also known as Amended Migrant Workers Act.[6]


  1. ^ a b "2017 Survey on Overseas Filipinos (Results from the 2017 Survey on Overseas Filipinos )". 18 May 2018. Retrieved 28 May 2018. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Medina, Andrei; Pulumbarit, Veronica (21 September 2012). "How Martial Law helped create the OFW phenomenon". GMA News. Retrieved 16 May 2018. 
  3. ^ Macasero, Ryan (13 August 2015). "'Recruiter's responsibility doesn't end after deployment' – POEA". Rappler. Retrieved 14 May 2018. 
  4. ^ "OFW remittances not covered by tax reform". Department of Finance (Philippines). 21 June 2017. Retrieved 14 May 2018. 
  5. ^ "Bello reminds airlines of travel tax, terminal fee exemption for OFWs". ABS-CBN News. 3 March 2017. Retrieved 14 May 2018. 
  6. ^ Medenilla, Samuel (1 January 2018). "POEA lists 24 countries off-limits to OFWs". Manila Bulletin. Retrieved 14 May 2018. 

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