Blog Post

Blog Action Day: Web Work as an Alternative to Overseas Worker Migration

I’ve often mentioned that I live in the Philippines, a country that has seen more than its fair share of political and economic turmoil. Because of this, many of our citizens feel that the only way to escape poverty in this country is by working in a foreign land and sending money to their family here.

One can’t blame them for leaving. Everyone wants to give their family the basic necessities such as education, shelter, food, and medical care. If other third world countries are just like the Philippines, or even worse, then there are few employment opportunities, low pay against a decent standard of living, and little hope for the average citizen. This is what forces most people to become overseas migrant workers. However, this solution to one’s personal poverty has several disadvantages.

The disadvantages of being an overseas contract worker

The most obvious disadvantage is one’s separation from family. Most migrant workers leave their children to the remaining parent or to other relatives if both parents leave the country. This means that children tend to grow up without the influence and guidance of their parents.

Another issue for most overseas workers is the higher standard of living in the countries where they work, especially if they are in North America or Europe. They have to spend more in living expenses in those countries, compared with how much they’ll be spending if they stayed in their home country.

There are also high costs that come with applying as an overseas worker. The immigration fees, agency fees, airfare, and other expenses amount to more than what the middle-class worker earns in a year. Also, there is no guarantee that your application will be accepted after you’ve paid for all the fees. Because of the money involved, there are even scammers and fake overseas employment agencies who are out to prey on the desperation of those who want to find work abroad.

Perhaps the most difficult of these advantages is the lack of protection and the level of maltreatment that these migrant workers face.

…an average of three Filipino workers escape from their employers each day due to maltreatment.

In addition to OFWs receiving lower than in-contract or delayed salaries or not getting paid at all, they have also been exposed to unfavorable working and living conditions, sexual harassment, and other discriminatory practices.

Source: The Daily PCIJ

These disadvantages are often overlooked or treated lightly because of the need to earn more.

What web working can do

I believe that web working and provide a better alternative for those who want to earn in stronger foreign currencies but don’t want to face the disadvantages of becoming an overseas migrant worker. In a way, web work will allow people from developing countries to experience the best of both worlds, gaining the employment and pay they want without leaving the country.

While it’s true that there are start-up costs attached to web work, they are only a small fraction of what skilled workers have to spend when going abroad. Internet access is also becoming more widespread, making web work a strong possibility for those living in major cities of developing countries.

The diversification of income is also more realistic when it comes to web work. Having multiple streams of income gives web workers a safety net, since they can earn from a variety of industries and establish several small online businesses.

Despite its advantages, web working isn’t a solution that applies to everyone. First of all, it only applies to entrepreneurs and knowledge workers. Manual laborers can’t have the option to work on the web because their physical presence is required.

Also, web working is a slow trend in developing countries. In most cases, the knowledge that web work is possible is limited to the tech elite. To develop widespread knowledge, local governments need to implement information dissemination about web working, as well as improve existing computer literacy programs. By doing so, web working will become a strong alternative and less skilled workers will choose to migrate.

Widespread web work in developing nations might not eliminate poverty completely, but it will give the citizens more options, help them increase their income, and allow them to be globally competitive. I know this because that’s what web work has done for me.

11 Responses to “Blog Action Day: Web Work as an Alternative to Overseas Worker Migration”

  1. I’ve worked abroad. I’ve worked in American-owned outsourcing companies in Makati. Then over a year ago, I decided it’s much more fun not to be a slave to the bundy clock, to managers-from-hell, or to Makati’s goddam traffic and just work in my undies from home. I can sleep all day and work at night like I’ve always wanted to. I can bring my laptop and work at the mall or at the coffee shop. I can decide at a moment’s notice to go home to Baguio or Vigan and my work goes with me in a nice red Western Digital usb drive. Of course, working abroad would still mean much higher pay for skilled workers like us but there are non-monetary benefits with working from home: less stress, being close to the family, quality time with the pet dog, etc

  2. The financial crises has shown just how ‘global’ the world economy has become. In my vision, it’s only a matter of time before everything becomes global, workforces included. Need a japanese translation for a job? What could be better than getting a resident in the country to do it?

  3. Hi, Celine. Great to find a fellow Pinoy here and talk about our country’s economic issues. It’s great too for putting web working as alternative means of income.

    However, I think you’re referring to the cost of living when you wrote this, “Another issue for most overseas workers is the higher standard of living in the countries where they work, especially if they are in North America or Europe.”

  4. Poverty is such a hard reality for most Pinoys and despite the income from overseas work, few things have improved and a certain part of the nation’s soul is lost. Web work would be a good option because the foundation of good family relationships is ultimately about shared time.


  5. Yes, great post. And I would like to add that while web working is liberating for some, it might be seen as threatening for others. For instance:

    “Through an online marketplace such as ki work, colleagues can collaborate across national boundaries to bid for outsourced projects. It’s ‘fair trade’ because the bidding process is transparent. Instead of working for a local outsourcer or a western corporation people are working for themselves to create businesses and, of course, spending the proceeds locally.

    Of course, It can’t be denied that this represents a threat to the better-paid knowledge workers of developed countries. Currently outsourcing frequently means companies simply firing more expensive employees and replacing them with cheaper alternatives. But it also offers opportunities.

    The ki work platform (and there are others) enables those who could otherwise be thrown on the scrapheap to use their local contacts and specialist skills in areas such as project management, communication, IT and web development to create virtual businesses online. Potentially this is a great win-win situation. Every individual can make the most of their combination of skill and price no matter where in the world they are.” seem more…—virtual-fishing-rods-for-economic-growth.html

  6. and the separation from family is harder because we filipinos tend to be used to having family, relatives and friends around us.

    for my part, i turn to sites like freerice (rice donation), kiva (microfinance), and goodsearch (donation per search), as ways to help alleviate poverty online. i also put up their banners on my blog. :)

    saw this post via the front page of blog action day. it’s great that you’re participating. :)

  7. So true! I know that outsourcing has enabled thousands, maybe millions to rise from poverty to a sustainable lifestyle, though I think I can understand why many Americans and possibly Europeans are against it. In the long run, competition is good :-)

    – Josh from LiveWellSimply