A Brief History of Migration and Remittances in the Philippines

A Brief History of Migration and Remittances in the Philippines

November 30, 2018 4 min read

A Brief History of Migration and Remittances in the Philippines

As an archipelago comprising over 7,000 islands during high tide, the Philippines has always been poised for multiculturalism and traveling.

Over the years, the Philippines has become a key exporter of migrant workers, making the Filipino community an integral part of many cities around the globe. As a result, the Philippines is the third top remittance receiving country in the world.

Let’s find out more about this country, and how its migration flows influence their remittances.

A (Very) Brief History of the Philippines

Currently one of the most populous countries in the world, the Philippines has been inhabited by many nations and ethnic groups for a very long time, such as the Aeta, the Tumandok, the Ati, the Agta and the Mamanwa, among many others. These groups were organized into complex trading settlements and societies, with some of them eventually becoming polites (or early states) such as Maynila, Pangasinan and Tondo, to name a few. Some of these nations had contact with other important civilizations of Asia, further developing their trade.

From the 16th to the early 19th century, the Philippines were part of the viceroyalty of New Spain. Under Spanish rule, many of these autonomous political entities were brought under a single administration and were turned into cities. These cities endured successive events such as the Philippine Revolution, the Spanish-American War, the Philippine-American war, and World War II, eventually leading to the creation of the independent Philippine State. Today, the Philippines is a dynamic economy, a diverse society composed of multiple ethnicities and cultures, and an important political entity, both within Asia and the world.

Remittances and the Philippines

Why is the number of remittances to the Philippines so high? Currently, more than 10 million Filipinos are living as expats—a sum equal to 10% of the country’s population. According to the BSP, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) support their families mainly from the United States (9.4 million), the United Arab Emirates (2.54 million) and Saudi Arabia (2.5 million), a trend that’s been around since the dawn of modern migration. Because these remittances are sent by overseas Filipino workers, they are also known as “OFW remittances.”

Remittances in the Philippines are overseen by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Philippines Central Bank, BSP). According to available remittance statistics provided by the World Bank, In 2017, they registered an inflow of USD$32,808 million, which translates to 10.5% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). As of 2020, this number has increased, with the latest estimation being at USD$ 33,339 million.

The Migration History of the Philippines

Immigration in the Philippines started strong in the 20th century following the Spanish-American war, which resulted in the Philippines becoming a US territory. Soon after, many Filipinos migrated to Pacific states like Hawaii to work at sugarcane and pineapple plantations. It’s estimated that Hawaii received around 120,000 Filipino workers between 1906 and 1934.

Thanks to an overseas employment program launched by the government in the 1970s, the doors opened up for Filipinos to work in the Middle East, especially in member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Canada, Australia and New Zealand were also popular destinations at the time.

The Philippines Today

Today, guaranteeing the safety and well-being of OFWs is the main challenge, but migration hasn’t halted one bit. In fact, the Philippines saw great economic stability during the 2000s despite the global crisis and political turmoil within the country. The gross domestic product (GDP) increased yearly by an average of 6% from 2011 to 2016.

However, the immigration flow remained unchanged, with 64% of migrant workers settling in the Middle East and another 25% finding jobs in Asia. Since 1992, Filipino women have been taking center stage thanks to the demand for domestic workers. Today, only 38% of new hires go into the sector, signifying a broadening of job opportunities and a hopeful dawn for high-skilled job opportunities.

Ria Money Transfer and the Filipino Community

Since our arrival in the Philippines, we have made sure not only to speak the same language as our customers, but the right dialects as well. Our core values resonate with the Filipino community who is thankful for our service, one which allows them to show their love for their families.

Just this month, our European team was honored by the Samahang Ilokano International Spain Chapter 04303 in Madrid, a Philippine association seeking to help fellow Filipino immigrants settle in their new countries. The association presented us with a certificate of appreciation for our “continued support and leadership” at their 10-year anniversary celebration on November 18.

We used the opportunity to remind members and inform newcomers about the power of remittances and how we can help them be there for their loved ones.

Sending money home is a delicate and important business, making it imperative for senders and beneficiaries to feel they can trust the money transfer service provider. At Ria, we believe the only way to foster that sense of security is through taking the time to connect with our customers, their families and their communities.

Ready to send money to the Philippines? We’re here for you. Download our app for iOS or Android today to get started!

This post is part of our History of Remittances series. Previous posts include the remittance history of Malaysia, Morocco, Senegal, Dominican Republic, Georgia, Colombia, Ukraine, Poland, Canada, India and Italy.

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