MANILA, Philippines — The two-and-a-half year multi-sectoral partnership among the United Nations (UN), the public and private agencies and organizations recently culminated, reporting significant gains in protecting Filipino migrant workers through progressive labor migration policies and practices.
These agencies include the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Women Empowerment (UN Women), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Local Government Units (LGUs), Private Recruitment Agencies (PRAs), Connected Women, Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, and the Atikha Overseas Workers Communities and Initiatives, Inc.
This partnership called Bridging Recruitment to Reintegration in Migration Governance: Philippines (BRIDGE), supports the Philippines’ commitment to the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), specifically its objective of facilitating fair and ethical recruitment and safeguarding conditions for decent work and cooperating to facilitate the safe and dignified return of migrants as well as sustainable reintegration.
“BRIDGE was designed to strengthen labor migration governance in the Philippines,” said Gustavo González, UN Resident Coordinator in the Philippines. “Migration governance refers to how the Philippines deals with the challenges and benefits of migration, including the protection of migrants’ rights throughout their migration journey—starting from recruitment to their return and reintegration in the country,” added Gonzalez.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), over 1.8 million Filipinos are working in different parts of the world. Sixty (60%) percent or 1.1 million of these workers are women, whose occupations are referred to as “elementary”, which included cleaning, maintenance of establishments, and delivery of messages or goods, tend to put them in a vulnerable position.
In fact, according to the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), women migrant workers are often victimized by illegal job recruiters even before they leave the country. In 2021, over 1,800 cases of illegal recruitment were reported.
With support from the BRIDGE Programme, the DMW was able to promote progressive labor migration policies and practices that will intensify fair and ethical recruitment at the national and local levels informed by international standards.
Labor migration agencies conducted localized capacity-building training sessions through the BRIDGE Programme. These included sessions on digital literacy to help aspiring Filipino migrant workers avoid online job recruitment scams and human trafficking. Just as important, the BRIDGE Programme also prioritized the reintegration of migrant workers.
Reintegration refers to the multi-dimensional process of migrants in re-establishing their economic status, social structures, and psychosocial relationships in their communities of origin after working and living abroad. From the side of duty-bearers, it may involve providing various forms of assistance and resources to help them readjust and resume their lives back home.
The COVID-19 pandemic magnified the issues of large-scale job losses leading to mass returns, and the need for effective reintegration frameworks to further support migrant workers’ safe return.
Over 923,000 Filipino migrant workers have returned to the country since 2022. However, due to the lack of competitive wages and decent work opportunities, Filipino migrant workers are not motivated to stay and find work in the Philippines.
The BRIDGE Programme aimed to provide comprehensive assistance and facilitate a smooth transition for returning migrant workers as they go back into their families and communities.
With support from the BRIDGE Programme, the local government of Quezon City established the first-ever Migrant Worker Resource Centre (MRC) in Metro Manila which serves as a one-stop center for migrant workers and returnees.
“With the help of our international and domestic partners including the religious sector, we [the Quezon City Government], have managed to put together a comprehensive program for our overseas workers with special attention of mitigating the social cost of migration through a menu of services that covers a full migration cycle,” said Mayor Joy Belmonte of Quezon City Government.
Through the MRC, the Quezon City government, with support from BRIDGE, is facilitating jobs and livelihood opportunities for Filipino migrant workers, returning workers, and their families.
Mayor Belmonte also added that the local government unit’s priority now is providing transportation, medical, and referral support to 20,000 distressed returning migrant workers.
Furthermore, the BRIDGE Programme identified opportunities that would leverage existing partnerships and brought different local and international stakeholders together to innovate, build capacity, and provided resources for government and other agencies to develop sustainable solutions and scale up even beyond the programme.
The BRIDGE Programme was funded by the UN Migration Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF). Committed to safe, orderly, and regular migration, the MPTF supports the adoption and implementation of the Global Compact to encourage the uptake of migration approaches that benefit communities of origin, transit, and destination, as well as migrants.
BRIDGE is jointly implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), International Labour Organization (ILO), and United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) under the auspices of the UN Resident Coordinator (UNRC), and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
About the UN Migration Network in the Philippines
A United Nations Network on Migration Philippines (Network) is established by the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) as part of the larger United Nations Network on Migration, to draw from the mandates, technical expertise and experience of relevant UN entities to ensure effective, timely, coordinated UN system-wide support to Member States in their implementation, follow-up and review of the Global Compact on Migration. Then Philippines Network will work within the UN Socioeconomic and Peacebuilding Framework (SEPF) in its goal to leave no one behind and focuses on ensuring the rights and wellbeing of migrants of all types. The overall objective of the Philippines Network is to strengthen the capacity and coordinate the efforts of the UNCT in relation to the Philippine government’s implementation of the GCM and its Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022.