Middle Class Exodus
My folks have a travel agency here in
I was never really too concerned about the high number of OCW's. Most of them leave their families behind implying that they do intend to return and once they do bring back their skills. However, the people I am referring to buying these one-way tickets, buy them for their entire family. They are what I would refer to as a middle class.
Many of these people occupy middle management positions in corporate Philippines. Immigration abroad to return later would in no way help their career and it seems quite a waste to leave now after investing so much in a company. The fact that these people would choose to uproot their young children from family and school, and gamble on a uncertain future must mean that they to are losing hope for the long-term prospects of this country.
If this trend continues, what kind of a country will we have? A country divided between the super rich and the dirt poor? I believe it almost universally accepted that the true catalyst of change is the middle class, but as we lose them, what indeed are out long term prospects? The issue really goes beyond Erap to what he represents.
-Victor A. Limlingan Jr.
Just talked to Sam the other night, he said for 1 week after the Dos Palmas incident, he's been on "deep period of reflection". On what? basically, "should we stay or should we go" thing. In particular, he said:
- 2 of his friends have left the other week with their entire families, no goodbyes, nothing, they just left!
- parents of his son's HS classmates just last sunday were talking the same thing: stay or pack up? if so, when? the feeling is so pervasive among many middle class parents.
Earlier I posted that there's really no short-term solution to our country's problems except more OFWs and out-migration. If our political leaders can't assure good governance, and police officers can't assure peace and order, why stop these people who have the means and resources to leave this country? If our local entrepreneurs and bleeding heart militants who oppose foreign investors
and economic liberalization can't provide enough high paying jobs, why stop our underpaid or jobless countrymen from leaving and be employed abroad?
I believe that many of these middle class Filipinos are immigrating because they have lost hope in this country. While they have achieved a measure of economic well being, I wager many feel that this is not a country that they want to see their children grow up in. Whether or not they are correct is debatable, but the phenomenon of their immigration proves that this perception indeed exists.
What is especially shocking is that I expected this to abate after the ouster of Erap. Clearly, it has not. I am told that after the ouster of Marcos, their was so much renewed optimism - this is why my father decided to uproot us from
-Victor A. Limlingan Jr.
I just want to confirm the same mood of hopelessness that now runs amok among the middle class. I have a friend (a stockbroker) who's just waiting for his "landing permit" (which I was told is different from a visa) to settle in Canada. At first he was hesitating, but the events of 2001 have now convinced
him that nothing's going to happen here. Especially, he said, with a looming Noli de Castro presidency as early as 2004. A cousin of mine with Kodak Phils. is also now finalizing his papers to go where there are now more sheep than humans (
The local entrepreneurs want a fair shake, i.e., if you're going to slap a 12% tax on transaction charges for loans taken out by multinationals, you ought to slap the same rate on similar transactions by local companies -- not the 32% corporate income tax. That effectively makes Filipinos the subsidizers of
foreign bank transactions for multinationals.
MNCs should stay, and we should do everything to make them stay. And one of the things that will make them stay, I believe, is not the bending-over-backwards incentives but a clear and equal application of policy -- whether it's with respect to taxes, incentives, and penalties. A survey we at
PricewaterhouseCoopers did some years back confirmed this. If the outsiders know the rules as we do, and are certain that they're not going to be changed overnight by some bureaucrat's whims, they're going to stay.
It is sad that families are torn apart and talent leaves the country to work overseas, to a good part in menial occupations. But as long as a maid or factory worker can make more money overseas than in traditional middle class jobs at home, the OCW business will flourish. The (paper thin) middle class is the prime candidate for emigration. The "ruling class" (politically and economically) can live quite comfortably, while the poor masses couldn't even afford the ticket to leave the country.
Crime, corruption, cronyism, graft are a lot of good reasons to be unhappy in one's home country. Some people stay to fight back, some get sucked into a corrupt system, some choose to leave. I admire the ones that stay and try to change the system, but I can understand the ones leaving in the attempt to better themselves and try and build a brighter future for their children.
The question is how staying in the Philippines can be made more attractive to the middle class families? My guess is that safety, economic stability, job opportunities, graft and corruption are deciding factors. Improvements here are direly needed, not only for the sake of the middle class, but for the people as a whole.
One can not compare, for example, a teacher's pay of $400 a month in the
Maybe we can understand, why Mr. Juan de la Cruz, a vice-president in a big Philippine bank, living in a gated community in
-Jojo de los Reyes
Consider a country relying on remittances to prop up the GNP. The fact that the
I think it's not the president nor the politicians who can make the Philippines as good as it was - it's really up to us Filipinos (whether we are in our out of the country) that can help each other out.
Ooppss, correction Ria. I never said "since we cannot rely on foreign investors". What I said is "since
we do not welcome foreign investors", and I'm referring here in particular to the Left and some civil society groups in this country who oppose more foreign investments, who oppose multinational companies, who oppose trade liberalization, who oppose economic deregulation, etc. Compound that with a 1.55 million new Filipinos added to the population every year (birth minus death, net of migration). Para tayong nagki-create ng new Singapore every 2 1/2 years!
The whole of Metro Manila is crumbling under the stress of being a mega-metropolis. Basic services such as garbage collection, distribution of water, and reasonable levels of law and order are irregular and unreliable. Government is inefficient and corrupt. Aside from the problem with basic services, inefficiency and corruption exists from the lowest to the highest level of government. The economic cycle is not a cycle-it's an irregular something-which makes long term financial decisions more difficult, which in turn affects the whole economic system.
In other words, it's our whole political and economic system that needs retooling-some more than others. You work, but what you work for in terms of quality of life can, in your opinion, be not worth it. Or you may be an entrepreneur, but you are defeated by an unstable economic, financial or political climate as well as an inefficient bureaucracy.
Ano solusyon? Naku, that could fill a book..judicial and regulatory reform, improving salaries and professionalization of the bureaucracy (not beholden to their patrons or interest groups), market-based systems, less protectionism, deregulation and anti-trust measures, more for countryside and rural development, improving financial and capital systems (tweaking system to make rule of law more regular, predictable, adaptive and efficient).
Pero if you wonder about the middle-class, paano pa kaya yung mga tao for whom going abroad is not an option because they lack the skills or resources to do so. Sa kanila naawa talaga ako, kaya for me we must really work to get this country back on its feet, so that they may have hope for this country, because unlike us in the middle class who still have the option of going abroad, sila resigned na sa buhay dito.
Just a short note. From the way we middle class are described and expounded here, it seems we know all the solutions to our nation's ills. It is just "sad" that we do not have the votes - but noises exchanged on the net - to prevent these idols of the lumpen proletariat from getting elected. I dare suggest we print these exchanges, exit from cyberspace, and ask them to read our remedies and feel our anxieties. If we are lucky, we only get dagger looks, and not daggers, then perhaps we should finally recognize that they really rule this country. Through their "proxies", of course, in and out of jail, Congress, church buildings, or reclaimed lands.
Like you I am concerned with the exodus of the middle class in hopes of finding a better, brighter future abroad. I agree that the
My office mate is in the middle of preparations to leave the country for Canada. For her, leaving the country is the only way she can ensure that her daughters will have a better life ahead. Much as we've all tried in the office to convince her to stay, she is convinced and hell-bent to leave. Somehow it is hard to convince her if around her people openly say that life abroad would be better.
For me the problem we face right now is that we, as a people, have lost hope in our country. Back in the eighties, when our family business was in the pits, our dad said "don't worry boys, we can't go any lower. If we work together, we can only go up from here." Maybe we've gotten to that point and perhaps that is the message we have to spread. "Please do not leave, we need you to help the country
get out of the pits."
The middle class exodus I was referring to includes entire families who uproot themselves. This to me is very striking because they already do have a pretty good life style here. They already do have some measure of comfort and the marginal economic rewards will not be substantial. I believe this points to a growing sense of hopelessness.
However, what struck me in the case of Peter posting was his question on what will make the middle class stay (we are after all agreed that we want them to). Well, if the middle class is leaving, it implies that they are not in a position to effect change or at least not inclined to do so.
Logically, then it is the elite or the masses in the country who can effect change if not the middle class. Therefore, the question should be poised, do the elite or the masses have an incentive to retain the middle class?
-Victor A. Limlingan Jr.
Hi Victor! Let me just touch briefly on that point you raised about the elite being leery about the middle class. You could be right about that. Then again, remember that the middle class provides the managerial talent that the elite need to run their businesses. It's an arms-length relationship, strictly business. Once in a blue moon, some lucky s.o.b. from the middle class marries the boss's daughter, and he becomes one of them. The point is, the elite need people like us.
About effecting change. In view of what I said earlier about the middle class having the managerial talent, the expertise, the creativity, and the foresight, I believe that, for change to have a far-reaching, redistributive effect overall, the middle class has to initiate it -- to propose it, plan it out, execute, assess, revise, etc. Only the expansion of the middle class will work toward making economic and political change for the better irreversible.
The ongoing mass departure of middle class citizens of this country is indeed a concern. If you watch the Frontpage every night on weeknights, and/or peruse the agony pages (terminology of my living idol,Conrado de Quiros) of the broadsheets every morning of your waking life, it would be so very easy to get the same sentiment. As you power off the TV and neatly fold the newspaper and insert it
in between your Gabo Garcia Marquez books, you sigh in great disbelief at what is happening to this country.
Buildings, people, workplace, relationships. Culture. These are the things you will walk away from. It seems that from walking away from the bad, you walk away from the good as well. Not an easy choice to make. In the meantime, I think I'll hang around. Afterall, Moses and his people had to wait for 40 years before they had a country. I already have mine. Perhaps i just don't want to have my daughter asking me later why i turned away from what Moses did not have for 40 years.
Reggie's post somehow struck me more than the others because i just realized it now that my sister just did that sort of thing. it did not occur to me that it was some sort of middle class exodus because she was the only one, but then again, she's not coming back, so i guess that qualifies. Her life is not much better in the States but it is considerably way livable than the one here.
Victor is right, they have lost hope in this country and they wouldn't want any part of it anymore. people have stopped dreaming. I, too, was under the spell of having the American dream when i was back in college. Several of my friends were bought one-way tickets to whatever country by their parents at the height of the impeachment scandal.
I think one part of the problem is a lack of sense of community with our people today. They care for themselves and their families but not the society in general. They do not recognize that they are part of that society that they alienate themselves from and they do not understand the notion that whatever
happens to that society is bound to affect them one way or another. I have seen that too often in the eyes of the closest people around me whenever they talk of migrating. Hell, wala nang pag-asa ang Pilipinas. Aalis na lang kami. This is their common cry.
-Anna Liza Su
Earlier this year, a friend from UP told me she is going to try her luck in the US. She and her husband are enterpreneurs in the Philippines. She was able to get a US visa, he was not. I discouraged her in going to the US, mainly because, their children are still small. But she insisted that she had to leave, so that she can help in paying the loans they incurred in their business. "Jojo, bagsak ang negosyo namin. Baon pa kami sa utang," she told me.
I tell my friends, life in the US is NOT easy. Maids cost a lot here. In the US, if you are ready to part with your hard earned US $1000 per month, then you can afford a live-in maid who is an undocumented alien. Maids who have permits to work in the US, their services cost around $2,000 per month.
I just hope, our government can give protection to our countrymen, who end up working for abusive employers. Both in the Philipines and outside of the
is better than stealing.
Patong patong na rason iyon, bago nila napag pasiyahan na , "time to go". Kids already have minds of their own, what more with adults. You can only give so much advice. Maybe, you can sit down with them (those who want to leave the country). Compute the cost/benefit ratio. Show them that they have more to gain in staying in the country. Consider the personal circumstances of each person. With my friends who are thinking of leaving the Philippines to go to the US, I tell them, life is not easy in the US. The maid-issue does not even come in the equation. You have to work hard. Dito, pag trabaho, trabaho talaga.
-Jojo de los Reyes
It's easy to go under the spell of Middle Class pessimism. I can understand it. I just wrote to a friend earlier that if either Ping or Noli became president, I'd have to leave the country. Can't keep my peace and feel to old to join a revolution (or start one).
Two Fridays ago, I had dinner with friends one of who said that about 4.9 million taxpayers (combined corporate and individual taxpayers) support the rest of the 76 million people in our country. I don't know where he got that figure--still have to check it out. But if it's true, then my gut feel is that the tax money that hasn't been contributed by the large taxpayers comes mainly from the middle class employees/ self-employed professionals/entrepreneurs. And we don't see much return of that tax money by way of services.
I guess we can start off by refusing to be pessimistic, we can refuse to accept the idea that nothing can be done (easy to suggest, huh, difficult to do). We can take a wait and see attitude. The GMA government is young--it hasn't had time to take off but so far it has weathered it's worst crisis--EDSA III and May 1. I think that it can handle the ASG and the consequences of the ill publicity that it has generated.
Ms. Vicky and everyone, The person who pays P1 in tax has as much right to live here (and to vote a
kabayan) as the person who pays in millions. Your friend's tax equation may be right, but one has to consider also the contribution of those who pay small or no tax at all - those who plant the food we eat, or the underground-economy workers who make rich people richer in their sweatshops so they could continue paying smaller taxes and then demanding more government services.
I agree that foreign investments should be strongly advocated. I don't want to be in GMA's shoes, I've got mine. We all know the solutions. We are just weighed down by pessimism and, quite frankly, a sneering dismissal of those who voted a yakker to legislate our future laws. This country will survive. It's the biggest suspense show in town.
Vicky, where does pessimism begin and realism take over? Is ignorance bliss? Maybe, we think too much. Maybe, we should just be happy that we get three square meals a day, have a decent sets of material comforts relative to the remaining 95% of the people in this country and that we get by.
Never mind the greater world around us, there is nothing we can do about it anyway. Be happy we just get by?
-Victor A. Limlingan Jr.
"What do you want me to stay for?"
- Quark, from Emissary 46379.1, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
"'My rights', 'my status', 'my right to choose', 'my life'"
- Picard, from The Measure of a Man 42523.7, Star Trek: The Next Generation
"I wish it were that easy."
- Odo, from Shadowplay 47603.3, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
For all and sundry,
When friends ask me if it is time to leave the
Boldly go, if you are not jumping from the frying pan to the fire;
Boldly go, if you have, not just the promise of, but concrete opportunities out there;
Boldly go, if all the life you have here is characterized by seeming endless struggle to simply survive;
Boldly go, if you live in constant fear;
Off into the world you go; but patriots do not cease to be. Patriotism is not limited by geographical boundaries. Love for country does not diminish as you cross borders. Our fair contribution to the development of our country can continue to be made from anywhere in the world. Boldly go, but do not forget. Boldly go, if you think that you could serve your country best by being out
Yep, come to think of it why me and my family are still here. As with most, perhaps it's either faith or fatalism. I have relatives and many classmates already settled abroad: they then said --if you plan to leave this small town Baguio, why just to Manila? Think of US of A, Canada, even nearby Australia and
New Zealand. Perhaps, I never really went for the good life, so to speak, for myself. In that small town I did enjoy my childhood, overall.
I guess I never shed off that survival mode. But here in our country, it's more perilous, I believe, than in those Untamed Frontier and Wild West of North America. There you had the right to pack guns, learn to slap leather faster and faster, and to shoot better and better: you got at least an even chance. But here, lawful and decent folks are disarmed or unarmed while many unlicensed firearms float around and in the possession of lawless elements. Many of them are even in cahoots with the police (which even gets annual salary increases: note the proposed supplemental budget -- another 12% increase while their civilian counterparts might get 5% only).
It's hard to leave, too when you've already built even a little house – the headaches and sentiments that go with it. But if my little girl and wife says it's time to go. Well, that'll be it.
I just got myself out of a lonely and noisy colloquy inside my car after nearly swiping a passenger jeepney. (They have this very nasty habit of pushing gas before looking.) Then my "elitist" mind began working. How much this guy pay in taxes to maintain our roads, to pay the salaries of the trafficmen who cannot seem to discipline them, and to earn the right to ram (read: elect) through our throats Messrs. ?!$@#!?*%:!!!s by their sheer numbers?
And then I realized I am contradicting myself on what I wrote yesterday. They do "pay" a lot of taxes by way of fuel purchases, perhaps more than professionals do for their tax-shielded fees. Quits. I am disappointed, too. I also feel I do not get the basic services we all normally expect. We fight, we petition, we debate, we lobby, we make noise.The drivers might be protesting, too, by making
life hard for the rest of us. There are still a lot of things in our benighted land to be thankful for.
There are a million more stories to be told of Pinoys and ex-Pinoys living overseas - some happy, others really sad, yet the common thread would be the continuous struggles - struggles working; living in a different environment; working, living and dealing with people of different nationalities, cultures,
values, etc.; coping with a sense of longing for family and friends left in the Phils., the home you grew up in; then, there's the constant worry and frustrations with the current socio-political-economic-environmental conditions in our beloved Phils.
What can we do? There are choices to be made. Some already have made their choices. But it's never easy making that choice. It's not easier either living with the consequences of whatever choice we make.
Hello Reuel and others, There is this old cliché in the market - companies go bankrupt but owners seldom do. I mean, I can think of several listed companies - billions of pesos in the red, and, the owner is attending some telecommunication conference in Florence for a month (never mind that the convention proper is a day or so) but the staff has to make do with pay cuts. Sooner or later the company folds. First one to get hit is the employees. Second, the employees get hit again because the
pension fund that they was suppose to be invested for their future gets used to buy shares to maintain management control. Third, the creditors or and minority shareholders. For some reason, the owners manage to still end up owning a house in the states.
-Victor A. Limlingan Jr.
I had so many chances to settle and live in the US or Japan. The months I spent there working in the course of a few years did not give me the desire that other people feel. My father died weeks before he was scheduled to appear in the embassy. He waited 14 years for this rare chance. He could have brought there my nanay and my youngest sister. I lost the desire very early. Gabriel Garcia Marquez once wro te, "A person does not belong to place until there is someone dead under the ground."
Very recently, I asked my wife if she wants to settle in Canada. She does not want. My cousins, who were little kids when they migrated in 1981, are now preparing to come back. They bought a small farmlot in Sariaya for their parents' retirement. Every year, on their town fiesta, they go home and stay at least two weeks.
Given all these, I still found myself attending despedida parties of those who were leaving the country with their own families. Two of them had very high-paying jobs here. No one of them cited the country's economic and peace and order conditions. My newly-married sister, the one my father would have brought to the US in 1991, is planning to go, too. These are life's choices. Pardon me, but I don't see it as a national concern. Those who stay and those who work overseas for their families here should merit our higher attention.
The hardship and struggles are called, "paying your dues". You pay your dues to the US society, before you are given the chance to rise. I'd say, there would be seven to ten years of these struggles and hardships, before you enjoy the fruits of your labor.
This is an on-the-job-training on how to appreciate diversity. We had to learn how to respect different opinions (because we all come from diverse backgrounds) and be able to work with them as team mates, despite our differences. We try to learn the art of diplomacy while maintaining our stands on certain issues. We learn the power of words, how it can build bridges and, hopefully, avoid building walls.
-Jojo de los Reyes
The middle class (once it gets its act together) is indeed a powerful force. What we just have to transcend is our tendency to act individually. The entire economy (especially the knowledge-based economy) would stop if the intelligentsia collectively decide to say BASTA YA! (Sobra Na! enough!) Which reminds me of the story of John Galt and his companions in Ayn Rand's ATLAS SHRUGGED.
Perhaps what is needed is a movement which explicitly claims to be for the middle-classes' interest. Something we could truly call our own. Hindi na tayo kakabit o dudugtong sa iba pang political blocs or movements. Let's no longer be guilty or uncomfortable of being middle class. Perhaps we could take some tips from the Israelis. They chose, as a people, to build their homeland in the midst of hostile Palestinians and Arabs. They survived. Perhaps we need to adapt to our culture their fierceness as a people, their collective concern for each other.
Perhaps we need to delve into our own history and popularize the times when our people withstood tough and dangerous times (i.e., panahon ng Kastila, the Japanese Occupation, the dark years of martial law). Who knows, perhaps because of this, it will be our children who will tell us, "Dad / Mom, let's not go anywhere else. Let's stay in our own country".
Dino, I do not wish to start a debate on this, perhaps because this biblical suspense theater has been going on for, say 4,000 years, and we do not know the end of it. In hindsight, I only want to comment that exodus is really a good thing after all. Had either Cain or Abel chose to go elsewhere, say
Yes, the middle class exodus. Will it become a problem na wala nang matitira? Hindi naman kasi habang dahan-dahan silang umaalis, dahan-dahan namang papalitan sila ng mga nasa baba ng hagdan. Considering the extreme thing will happen na wala nang matitira, then sure it will add to the crisis. But in that case, the elite will hire and train new recruits from those waiting in the next rungs of
the ladder. During crisis and bleak periods, when those who have the choices packed up their bags and went abroad, it is a chance for those next-in-ranks to slowly take their place.
Anna I think asked what is the solution for those who are left to stay. Well, the middle class who will stay behind will join protests, band for some worthy causes, sign in against corruption, and so on and so forth. On the individual level, they will struggle also to keep or find better jobs/businesses, keep
improving themselves in talents and skills, at the same time to enjoy the fruits of their hardwork. The long-term middle class solution/ aspiration is to have a good and transparent government and an expanding economy that pulls the poor upward to form a stable society. A stable society also means secured, stable and not oscillating incomes for the then wider middle class majority. The militants want to bring down the elite, centralize the resources to the government (made of them) and promise that these will pull upward the poor masses, not realizing that they will be the new elite camouflaged under government clothes.
Yes, some members of the middle class are leaving. I hope to take their place and organize my life accordingly.
Actually, what I admire about the Israelis is their FIERCE sense of being a nation and a people. This is something we can perhaps learn from as a people. Siguro, masyado nang nalugaw ang ating kultura ng iba't ibang influences (especially the current MTV / Hollywood influx). This, I perceive, manifests
itself most in the middle class- ourselves, our children, our kin. So much so that we sometimes do things because we HAVE to (out of routine, out of resignation, "because this is the way things have always been"), not because we WANT to.
Perhaps we can recapture our passion and zest for life (as a class, that is) by recasting our history to make it more meaningful to our kids and to our generation as well. Since our social class have a significant influence on the media and other means of cultural production, why not popularize our own historical heroes, traditions and struggles (victorious and otherwise) into popular icons and symbols fit for the next generations. "Rizal", "Sakay","Bayani" etc. are already first steps in these directions.
Hello Dino, I was struck by your pose on the Israelis. Perhaps we were never persecuted hard enough? I mean, Filipinos do get treated pretty badly, but there was never any systematic attempt to exterminate us in the same way there was for the Jews. I am not merely referring to Hitler but all the way back to Medieval Periods where anti-Jewish programs were a part of daily life. That compiled with their religion means that they have no choice but to stick it out together. Same argument applies closer to home to our very own ethic Chinese community although admittedly to a lesser extent.
I really do not have hard figures but notice every where you go there is a China Town. I went to
-Victor A. Limlingan Jr.
There are no Filipino Towns abroad, because Filipinos are familiar with the English language as well as Western cultural norms (American most especially). They likewise have highly marketable skills. Ethnic enclaves serve as acculturation points for new immigrants. Apparently, Filipinos have little need for these. The good side to this is that hardly any country with a large Filipino immigrant community has ever talked about a Filipino problem the way they have talked about a Korean or Chinese problem. Nevertheless, there is one interesting observation. School alumni groups,college fraternity/sorority alumni associations, and Filipino regional organizations appear to have a robust and active membership in those countries.
-- Ike Suarez
I can't help but share experiences here by Filipino immigrants here in Canada. Most Filipinos who come here are highly educated and highly skilled, they were even big bosses when they were in
It is so much easier to make excuses and be the victim in a situation but the truth is - everyone has a choice that can be empowering.
The push-and-pull factors contrive for this noticeable exodus of the middle class abroad. The "push factor" - things are far from full stability and recovery for the economy and political institutions. The "pull factor" - industrial, globally-competing, large land area but low-population growth countries like Canada, Australia & NZ are actively encouraging more migrants into their countries. And they attract the skilled people from poorer economies.
More globalization will make migration of people - both skilled and unskilled - easier and more frequent. Why?
- cheaper air fares as international airlines compete among themselves, and as bigger and faster planes get commissioned
- cheaper communications cost (via the internet, emails, etc.) which makes "homesickness" more bearable
- more trade of goods and services as tariffs decrease and import controls/restrictions are torn down and "tariffied" or converted to tariffs
- liberal financial flows, which makes transfer of income and profit repatriation easier among countries.