Remittances slow down as deployment declines

Published by rudy Date posted on February 17, 2009

FILIPINOS working abroad sent home $16.43 billion last year, 13.7 percent higher than in 2007, but December remittances grew at their slowest pace in two years as fewer people found jobs as nurses, engineers and housekeepers overseas.

Money sent back in December increased by a mere 0.8 percent from a year earlier, to $1.41 billion, the central bank said in a statement. That’s the smallest gain since April 2006.

In another sign that demand for labor was declining, the number of Filipinos who left for jobs abroad fell 5.8 percent to 89,799 in December, data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration showed.

But for the entire year deployment was up 27.8 percent, to 1.377 million last year from 1.08 million in 2007.

The central bank has yet to release its forecast on remittances and the entire external account, but it has scaled down its projection this year to 3 percent to 6 percent.

Some foreign banks expect a drop in remittances of 15 percent to 20 percent this year, which they say will bring down consumer spending and eventually slow economic growth.

But the central bank sought to put a positive spin on the overseas job market.

“While there are expectations that the number of Filipinos deployed overseas could contract in the coming months due to the global economic slowdown, there are favorable developments that provide some reason for optimism,” the central bank said.

Canada, Bulgaria, Australia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar still have demand for Filipino labor. Qatar, for instance, continues to hire foreign workers in the power and energy sector as well as in the tourism and real estate sectors.

The central bank said the hiring program for nurses and caregivers in Japan would begin by the end of April or early May under the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement.

The bank said Filipino workers might also benefit from the rapid expansion of New Zealand’s dairy industry, spurred by higher milk prices, that created demand for dairy farm workers.

Last year, the major sources of remittances were the United States, Saudi Arabia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong. –Eileen A. Mencias with Bloomberg, Manila Standard Today

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