Although Singaporeans are “tightening their belts” because of the global economic crisis, there are plenty of opportunities for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on the island-state, its ambassador said Thursday.
Many Filipino housekeepers in Singapore would hardly be affected by the economic crisis—their employers unlikely to let them go because they have become an integral part of Singaporean lives, Ambassador A. Selverajah told The Manila Times during an exclusive roundtable interview.
“Maybe they [Singaporean employers] will cut down on buying a new car and other things, but with regard to hiring housekeepers, there will be no major effect,” he said. “Parents will need to work for a living, so the children have to be looked after.”
There are about 100,000 Filipino domestic helpers in Singapore, which also hires domestic helpers from Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Myanmar.
“Everybody is welcome in Singapore as long as you come in legally and follow the laws,” Selverajah said. “We will be happy to have you [Filipinos], and I hope you will be happy too in Singapore.”
But because of the expected retrenchments of Singaporean workers after the Chinese New Year, the ambassador believes there might be some effect in terms of foreign employment although he reiterated that the households would continue employing OFWs.
Filipinos provide a valuable service, in that they do jobs that Singaporeans cannot perform because they lack the skills, aptitude or simply the desire, he said.
“Filipinos are [naturally] very warm and hospitable people,” he said, adding that Singaporeans acknowledge that OFWs “help us grow the economy.”
“The Filipino community has become an integral part of Singapore,” Selverajah added.
OFWs are vital to the Philippine economy, because of the remittances they send home to their families. Filipinos working abroad remitted more than $14 billion last year, and this year, that figure is expected to grow to about $15 billion—equivalent to about 10 percent of the Philippine economy.
In earlier reports, experts expressed fear that the global financial crisis could lead to layoffs of OFWs worldwide. But the Philippine government said growing demands for Filipino labor, particularly in the Middle East, would offset layoffs elsewhere in the world.
And in the case of Filipinos working in Singapore, Selverajah said, “We should not worry too much.”
Selverajah said the profile of Filipinos working in Singapore in changing, as more OFWs are working as sales clerks in department stores and banks. There are more Filipino professionals there, as well as musicians and other entertainers, he added.
“The contribution of the Filipinos to Singapore is becoming multifaceted,” he added.
Filipinos are also contributing to the island-state’s booming tourism industry. The envoy said the Philippines is the eighth- or ninth-largest source of tourists—460,000 a year.
Filipino tourists even outnumber visitors from Germany, where Selverajah served as ambassador before his posting in Manila.
Last year, a record 10 million people visited Singapore, and that country is aiming to increase that to 17 million by 2015, the envoy told The Times.
Also, there is a growing number of Filipinos studying in Singapore, Selverajah said. Many of the Filipinos go there on grants and scholarships, he added. –Bernice Camille V. Bauzon, Reporter, Manila Times