Are OFWs "Expats" or "Migrant Workers"?

We are now living in a globalized economy where first-world countries need people from third-world countries (like the Philippines) to fill up certain jobs while industries hire foreign employees in order to become competitive. Unfortunately, there is still a perception of race bias where Caucasians are likely to get hired at key job positions or get a better salary package than the rest while people of color don't.

In a tough job market, many face discrimination directly or indirectly so that an overseas Filipino worker (or OFW as it's known here) are likely labeled as an economic migrant, foreign laborer, or guest worker (particularly in Europe) but a white person of the same job role will always be called an "expat." Why is it so?

By definition, "an expatriate is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of the person's upbringing. The word comes from the Latin terms ex ('out of') and patria ('country, fatherland')."

Filipinos working abroad label themselves as OFW (OCW or overseas contract workers for a more politically-correct term) but there's seems to be a disconnect as to how other people (especially employers) label Filipino workers. It's quite obvious that only their American or European colleagues get to enjoy that expat label. There is also a glaring difference in salary grade and benefits that the latter enjoy. We, Filipinos, have to negotiate hard just to get a better deal from foreign employers but our white counterparts get relocation package while most of us don't. Filipinos can only be "immigrants" while Caucasians are the "expats" because they can't be at the same level as other races.

There seems to be a double-standard as to who is an expat and who is a migrant worker. To be fair, there is a growing shift in this thinking and being expat is no longer for white people only, the social class, country of origin, and economic status now matters as this article from a Wall Street Journal blog states: "Filipino domestic helpers are just guests, even if they’ve been here for decades. Mandarin-speaking mainland Chinese are rarely regarded as expats, but they are certainly not locals. By contrast, a native Cantonese speaker earns an automatic right to belong, even if she spent most of her life in Sydney or Vancouver."

Some may say the term is just a term to differentiate us and them but the thing is, the inherent racial bias, whether intended or not, creates a sense of divisiveness among races, nationalities, and co-workers. Perhaps, there is a colonial aftertaste that lingers in our collective consciousness when white men ruled and colonized most of the known world. Some are in denial but it is true that Caucasians are used to get what they want while others don't. Most people in countries once colonized by Great Britain, France, Spain and Portugal feel a certain "cultural cringe" wherein they think they are "inferior" than their "colonial masters."

To an extreme end, we can stop calling Caucasians expats since they are immigrant like everyone else. Many have also left their first-world countries to live overseas because they can live better with their money, No wonder, many Portuguese are looking for work in oil-rich Angola and Mozambique. Many Americans are flooding Asia for top technology and financial jobs with multinational companies while their local counterparts earn less.

In this day and age, labor migration and globalization are the norm and we can't prevent people from moving into more affluent countries in search for better life.

You be the judge, are OFWs "expats" or "migrant workers"?

No comments:

Post a Comment