Is the government serious in addressing the exodus of critical skills?

In the FTA’s ad last March 23, we raised the grave threats facing the country as a result of the unchecked and unregulated outflow of ‘mission-critical’ skills and talents such as the likely closure of more hospitals, the grounding of the domestic aviation industry and the collapse of critical industries, e.g.,  power, steel, petrochemical and telecoms industries. This is so because the poaching by foreign recruiters and employers of our mission-critical personnel and professionals are sudden and massive.  The affected local industries lose precious investment on industry-specific training; moreover, organized foreign poaching hardly gives them the time to recruit and hone the skills of new trainees.

This brings FTA to the stock answer given by some government functionaries on the outflow of mission-critical skills and talents – industry should help increase the supply of these skills and talents through more investments on training, with CHED and TESDA providing added support.   This answer is a non-solution.

For what can industry do if the expert workers it trained and developed over the years disappeared overnight because foreign poachers have managed to entice them to leave the country despite the existence of voluntary training contracts stipulating that they should render at least a minimum number of years in return for the training and exposure that they have received from the said industry?  Incidentally, at the University of the Philippines, how many millions of pesos have not been paid by professors and researchers who were sent on overseas scholarship and who have refused to come home to fulfill their obligations under the terms of their voluntary contracts?

Anyway, the FTA is not against the movement per se of skilled and talented professionals even if Section 5 of the Migrant Workers Act of l995 provides that the State can declare a ban on the movement of certain professionals if the national interest so requires.  What FTA is asking is for a stricter regulation by the State of the movement of mission-critical personnel, specifically those who can not easily be replaced by new graduates or trainees.    For the reality is that an increase in the so-called supply will only take place if dramatic interventions, made by both government and industry, have been put in place.

To amplify, in many  professions, the individual makes  his/her own training investment,  but for most of the so-called mission-critical skills,  the local employer  is the one who assiduously takes care of the necessary upgrading and who allocates the supplementary  training fund,  as part, of course, of their own business plan.  For some of the industries, the whole process of developing mission-critical skills — from the ab initio training to the certification of the full-pledged professionals — even takes a decade.  And yet, it often happens that it is towards the end of this process when the foreign poachers would stealthily come to the scene to steal the harvest from the sower.

Managing the supply also means successive stages of formal training, experiential learning, and passing licensure exams.  All this takes several years, perhaps as long as it takes for a lawyer to earn his spurs. And yet, in the case of the domestic airline industry,  China, India and some Middle East countries are expanding their air fleet without developing their own pilots and mechanics in sufficient numbers, content as they are in poaching pilots and mechanics from weak countries such as the Philippines. This is the same problem that hospitals in North America and Europe are doing; they are seducing our doctors and nurses to emigrate because they do not have to do the labor-intensive training task and are able to avoid the long period of waiting.

At present, foreign poaching far outpaces the training program undertaken by industry, mostly without support from government.  There is clearly a period of time that is needed to replenish the over-fished pond. If the aggressive recruitment by these foreign poachers remains unchecked, there would not be enough of these skills to sustain viable domestic industry operations, with some industries likely to fold up in the process.

As to the pay issue, most of the mission-critical personnel in industry are among the highest paid in the country, for example, pilots getting $6,000-10,000 wage-benefit monthly package and maintenance engineers, P40,000 to P60,000 monthly.  Still, it can not be denied that there is some disparity in pay compared to their counterparts in the more developed countries because of the generally lower level of industrial development in the Philippines.   The long-term solution here is to hasten our industrial catch-up, which, unfortunately, is being held back by the government’s own implementation of an incoherent, World-Bank-guided  and  one-sided liberalization  program, which is now aggravated by the failure of the government  to regulate  the outflow of mission-critical personnel and to develop an integrated human resource development program in support of an integrated economic blueprint.   Had we practiced economic nationalism in our industrial planning as the Japanese, Koreans and Singaporeans have been doing, we shall not be having this labor migration issue.

By the way, in the United States, under its Homeland Security Act, the US government determines the mission-critical occupations in strategic industries, regulates the outflow of critical skills and mobilizes concerned agencies on how to address shortages of badly-needed professionals in the vital industries such as the health sector.  Other countries maintain restrictive emigration policies for professionals needed at home, for example,    India requires certain medical personnel to render national service and accept posting in the rural areas.

To reiterate, we are not in favor of a ban in the overseas movement of professionals and skilled Filipinos.  What we are seeking is a balance – that those given education by their mother country and training and practical exposure by local industry should serve a minimum number of years in the name of national service and industry survival.  There should be stricter observance by all concerned of the terms of voluntary training contracts.  The government should protect the local industry against foreign poachers, many of whom do not even bother to register with our POEA.  And yes, the local recruitment industry should observe industry ethics, that is, avoid the practice of doing massive and debilitating poaching of mission-critical personnel in vital industries such as health, aviation, power, steel, telecoms and so on.


    Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

    You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

    Google+ photo

    You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


    Connecting to %s

  • FairTrade in pictures

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Founded in 2001, the Fair Trade Alliance (FairTrade) of the Philippines is a broad multisectoral coalition of formal and informal labor, industry, agriculture, NGOs and youth pushing for trade and economic reforms.
  • FairTrade seeks to promote a job-full and progressive Philippine economy through: (1) the promotion of fair trade rules and active agro-industrial policies based on the existing development needs of the nation, (2) the development of a positive agro-industrial culture to foster innovation, hard work and solidarity between and among the productive sectors of Philippine society, and (3) the transformation of an economy debased and stunted by colonial mentality, unequal trade and neo-liberal dogma into a modern, sustainable and broad-based.
  • Fair Trade Alliance (FairTrade)
    3/f Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) Headquarters
    #56 Mo. Ignacia cor. Dr. Lascano, Quezon City, The Philippines
    (+632) 372 49 91 to 92 local 30
    (+632) 372 39 24

    FairTradeWeb is powered by Wordpress, MediaMax, MediaFire, Yahoo!, FeedBurner and Flickr.

  • Subscribe in Bloglines

%d bloggers like this: