The COVID-19 pandemic is not the first health crisis faced by Overseas Filipinos (OFs). However, none of the other crises such as SARS, Ebola, and MERS-CoV had resulted in massive job losses, displacement, and repatriation. The ongoing health crisis has been particularly difficult and arduous for migrant workers while wide gaps in policies and implementation of laws were exposed at the expense of displaced and returning Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). There has been a huge drop in deployment rate in 2020. Border controls, travel restrictions, lockdowns and quarantines in many countries in the world literally shut the doors for Filipinos to work abroad.
Nonetheless, even as hostile environments emerge the world over and while the current COVID-19 pandemic brings new and daunting challenges, Filipinos would still dare and seek to continue working abroad or to consider employment overseas. The trend in global integration of products and services and the innate desire of Filipinos to uplift the living conditions of their families will continue to drive Filipinos to leave the country even for remote and formidable places in pursuit of better employment and the proverbial greener pastures.
In this light, this paper delves into the plight of migrant workers and overseas Filipinos in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and other global challenges, examines specific policy issues on labor migration, and discusses much-needed reforms anchored on the new normal. While the government’s efforts to provide necessary and immediate assistance are considerably laudable given the unprecedented magnitude and impact of the pandemic, there is still much that can be done to enhance management of labor migration and development.