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Monday, May 27, 2024

OFWs and the Children Left Behind

As explicitly indicated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the “family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding” is paramount for the “full and harmonious development” of a child’s personality. This is, without a doubt, what is in the minds of many parents.

To a lot of people, a family is made up of a father and a mother and their children. However, some families are in a situation where they will need to re-invent the notion of family in order to arrange for the “full and harmonious development” of the children.

A classic illustration of this is the family with one or both parents employed abroad. In a country where joblessness is a colossal and tenacious issue, working in a foreign country and the resultant remittances, offers a way out. It does not only resolve the unemployment problem, it also supplements the resources of households.

In short, because of poverty, Filipinos see overseas work as the only alternative to escape from their insolvent state of affairs. They will go to those countries even through unlawful networks just to be able to get of the country without considering the possibilities that they might get into trouble or suffer extreme abuses from foreign nationals.

OFW in Numbers

The overseas Filipino worker phenomenon is a dynamic and a rising segment of Filipino society. Labor exodus began in 1974 and has not stopped since then.

According to a study entitled Migration and Filipino Children Left Behind, the Philippines is a major supplier of labor migrants to more than 100 countries and roughly 1 out of 4 Filipino children are left behind by their parents.

In the 2015 Philippine Statistics Authority survey, the number of OFWs who worked abroad has reached an estimated 2.4 million. This figure is made up of Overseas Contract Workers (OCWs), the ones with existing work contracts and who comprise 97.1% of the overall OFWs, while the rest (2.9%) are working overseas without any contract at all.

According to that survey, the total remittance sent by OFWs was appraised at 180.3 billion pesos. These remittances included cash sent home (135.6 billion pesos), cash brought home (37.3 billion pesos) and remittances in kind (7.4 billion pesos).  The majority of OFWs sent their remittance through banks (62.2%) while the rest through agencies or local offices (4.0%), door-to-door delivery (2.4%), friends or co-workers (0.1%) and through other means (31.4%).

In the Mind of OFWs

Most Filipino migrant parents believe that the intimacy of relationships is not essentially fixed by physical proximity but is determined by the willingness of parents to sustain their duties  and migration is part of how parents’ duties are fulfilled for their children, which they do out of love. While these parents find it tough to separate from their children, they make the sacrifice in order to “provide for the child’s material requirements.” Therefore, Philippine households see overseas work as a method of attaining economic goals because of the money transfers that the left-behind family gets.

Do Children Understand Why Their OFW Parents Have to Leave?

Many parents working abroad assume that their kids fully understand why they have to leave — that it is for the children’s good and for their future. Many parents leave when their kids are very young and many children do not even know where in the world their mothers or fathers are.

Do children really understand why their parents leave? Do they really feel more privileged and more fortunate compared to other children because their parents are working abroad? Are they really in a better position than others?

Without doubt, not every girl understands why Mommy is not around to read her bedtime stories at night; not every boy understands why Daddy cannot come to his football game on Saturdays. Not all children would want to have bigger houses than their playmates, if they can have their parents with them to tell them that everything’s alright, which would have been better than not having anyone.

What Psychologists Say

Clinical psychologists are in the opinion that children, especially those who are at school age, need more attention from parents, since this is the time where development takes place. While it is important to give a child his/her basic needs like food, clothing, shelter and education, it is likewise equally important, to give love, a sense of belongingness, freedom, fun and achievement.

In most cases, OFWs are inclined to give their children the latest models in cellphones, toys and other material things. Although children enjoy these extras, they need a “complete” family more to bring during specific occasions, a father to talk to about that intimidating classmate, a mother’s shoulder to cry on whenever the teacher has been unusually frightening, or someone to help choose a dress to wear during the prom and someone to ask tips from when the crush’ attention is a little bit difficult to get.

Children of OFWs are prone to emotional, psychological, and behavioral problems. It has also been observed that many OFW children are becoming self-doubting and drug dependents. In addition, most of the OFW children have become so materialistic and spend their parent’s money on gadgets and internet gaming from lack of guidance.

Basically, migration of one parent or both is a very agonizing time for children and can trigger destructive emotions. In the case of an absentee father, children develop gender identity problems which become more apparent as they mature.

The Truth is —

Money is essential.  It can buy the basic necessities and pay for children’s schooling.  However, money is not everything.  While it is agreed that money can buy the comforts and luxuries in life, money is not the only thing that can bond a family together.  Some families, they lack money but yet, they stick together.

However, let us not dump all the blame on parents who have decided to become OFWs, because for sure they have made a difficult choice. Such choice, is, most of the times, made out of desperation and emotional exhaustion. Considering the government’s apparent inability to create adequate jobs for its people, the reality that the jobs available in different industries do not match with most of people’s educational qualifications, and the “padrino” culture still prevalent in the country, most Filipinos are pushed to seek greener pastures in faraway places.

For those who are still toying with the idea of working overseas or those who have already made the decision, think hard and deep on the consequences of your choice. Leaving your families does not only mean being separated from your children, it also means incurring additional costs as you will need to find people who can take your place in taking care of the children. You need to think of the most viable options and living arrangements so that the children you will leave behind will not so much feel the vacuum that your departure has created.

Our children only have us, their parents, to lean on. Let us not leave them fend for themselves and make them regret that they were born into a world and a life they didn’t ask for.

gemma minda iso

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