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.