Managing Temporary Migration: Lessons from the Philippine Model
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), the Philippines’ system of managing the overseas employment of millions of temporary Filipino workers, has long served as a model for developing countries hoping to access the benefits of global labor mobility. However, the Philippine model is not without its flaws. This report examines the structure and mechanism of POEA—the actors involved, the rules they follow, and how well the government enforces these rules—as well as the system’s shortcomings. The report frames its inquiry around three key areas in which POEA will need to make improvements if it is to translate deployment into concrete development outcomes at home: crafting a balanced set of regulations that maximizes legal deployment without sacrificing protection, building state capacity, and addressing the limitations imposed by the international nature of migration.
The report pinpoints several issues: POEA is a local institution managing a global phenomenon over which it does not have complete control; thus, POEA has limited ability to monitor workers’ welfare once they are in a host country, especially when governments do not honor the employer-employee contract stipulated by POEA. In addition, a number of factors seem to inhibit POEA’s ability to hold foreign employers, private recruitment agencies, and workers accountable for complying with mandated standards for overseas deployment. These include understaffing, lax consequences for recruitment agencies that circumvent the rules, inability to prevent document fraud, and delays in adjudicating grievances. To address such issues, the report recommends a three-fold policy solution that involves forming strategic alliances with destination countries, diverting worker flows to politically stable destinations with stronger migrant labor laws, and shifting deployment from vulnerable and low-skill sectors to high-skill or high-value occupations.