For skilled Filipinos, Middle East remains a career destination

Noel T. Tarrazona

Published: Updated:

Despite the Philippine government’s massive campaign to provide local job and livelihood opportunities for returning Filipino expats, Middle East countries continue to be the most preferred job destination for Filipino skilled workers.

Recent records show that that there are about 2.5 million Filipino workers residing in the Middle East and as of the mid-year of 2017, about $4.3 billion were remitted to the Philippines. The figures remain promising despite ongoing political uncertainties in the Arab community and the unstable oil prices in the region.

The Philippine’s Central Bank Forecast that the Middle East remittances remain to be one of the Philippine’s largest sources of foreign exchange income that contributed to the $28.6 billion over all remittances at the end of 2017. The Philippine government named United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait as the top source of remittances in the Middle East that kept the Philippine economy afloat.

In Saudi Arabia, Shater Abdurahman, an IT practitioner, said that skilled Filipino workers would still come to the Middle East because of the job opportunities given to them and are not available in the Philippines. Abdurahaman said that Filipinos are now looking not only at Saudi Arabia but in other Middle East countries as well.

In Qatar, a Filipino electric engineer, who requested anonymity told Al Arabiya, that Middle East-based companies prefer to hire Filipino employees and these companies always make work visas available for Filipino professionals and the salary rates offered are better off compared with those offered way back home.

In addition, more Filipino skilled workers are expected to get work visas in Qatar to help build different facilities that will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

According to ABS-CBN, aside from construction workers, Middle East will continue to need nurses, medical practitioners, engineers, IT experts and other skilled professionals who could provide professional services to the region’s growing population.

Aside from being a top source of Philippine remittances, the region will also continue to be a top trading partner of the Philippines that will eventually sustain the Middle East as a job provider for Filipinos.

Records suggest that Philippines has been exporting at least $500 million worth of goods to Middle East countries yearly since 2014 while it continues to import $3 billion – worth of crude oil.

With this trade value, the Department of Trade and Industry reported that Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) companies manifested their intention to work with Philippine producers and manufacturers, which in the end will again open new opportunities for Filipino expats to work in the Middle East.

Despite the weakening Philippine peso against the dollar, the trade value with the Middle East and the remittances from this oil-rich region continue to keep the Southeast Asia country as one of the best performing economies in the region.

This was also shared by Philippine bank executive Pearcy Joy Salvador who said the remittances and the BPO industry in the Philippines are keeping the economy stable.

Last year, a total of business agreements worth $925 million were also forged between Qatar and the Philippines when Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte visited the country. The deals are expected to generate 26,000 jobs.

Meanwhile, seven investment deals – worth $470 million – were also signed by the Philippine and Saudi governments. The newly forged deals will provide at least 16,000 jobs in the pharmaceutical, property development, medical tourism and halal processing industries.

Bahrain also took part in the trade deals with the Philippines when Nader & Ebrahim Company partnered with AMA Group Holding Corporation in the same year to expand business operation worth $250 million by targeting 10,000 hectares of farmland in the Southern Philippines. The project will provide 4,000 employment opportunities.

Looking back at the Philippine-Middle East cultural relations, Philippine Ambassador to Jordan Junever M. Mahilum-West said that there are over 6 million Muslims in the Philippines and 2 percent of these are of Arab descent.

Hence, Arab culture influence in the Philippines is the binding force that continues to link the Philippines and the countries in the Arab community. This is yet another reason why skilled Filipinos will continue to consider Middle East as their job provider and career destination for the next generation.