During the lockdowns following the COVID-19 pandemic the streets became deserted. Offices, shops, and restaurants closed down. Cities that were bustling looked abandoned. However at hospitals and clinics the exact opposite happened. The patients kept coming in even after the healthcare facilities were filled to capacity. Public areas were converted into makeshift wards. Doctors and nurses worked to the breaking point to help the infected. Their tireless efforts finally turned the tide of the outbreak. What few of us know is that throughout all of this many of the health workers in some of the worst affected regions of the world were Filipinos. Here is a look at the contributions of Filipino health professionals worldwide in fighting coronavirus.
By the numbers
According to some estimates there are about 150,000 Filipino nurses in the US. Another 18,500 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) work with the National Health Service in the UK. This makes them more numerous than any other ethnicity in the nursing profession in that country. According to Filipino Times, 60% of all nurses in the UAE are OFWs. The demand for Filipino nurses in Canada is rapidly rising, thanks to the country’s aging population. The recent viral outbreak stretched health professionals physically and psychologically. The contributions of Filipino health workers are recognized by all nations where they work.
Work at home or work abroad
The domestic health situation in the Philippines is not ideal. There is 1 doctor for every 833 people, one hospital bed for every 769 people, and one nurse for every 210 people. Despite this the vast majority of nursing graduates in the Philippines seek work overseas. In fact, many young Filipinos enroll in nursing courses specifically to aspire for overseas jobs. Some longitudinal studies have discovered that Filipino nurses employed in the US and elsewhere can earn 20 times as much as while working in similar jobs in the Philippines. Since 2007 nurses have made up the largest group of service sector OFWs. The country is the largest exporter of nurses in the world. According to some estimates 25% of all overseas nurses worldwide are of Filipino origin.
The COVID-19 situation exacerbated the shortage of healthcare workers in the Philippines. There was a report in March that Germany was requesting to import 75 additional Filipino nurses. However the request was denied due to overwhelming domestic demand. Nurses are among the very few professions in the country that have been allowed to move freely despite strict travel bans.
Nurses and GDP
Filipinos sent $33.5 billion in remittances in 2019. This ranked the Philippines fourth in the list of remittance receiving countries. Filipinos send money online primarily to support their loved ones back home. Remittances constituted 9.3% of the country’s GDP. In mid 2019 the number of OFWs worldwide was 2.2 million. In a country of 101 million people, just 2% of the population contributes to more than 9% of the GDP. Other than nurses some of the major OFW groups consist of laborers, domestic workers and caregivers. By comparison Filipino nurses are higher skilled workers. They earn significantly higher per capita than the average OFW. Their share of remittances and GDP contributions is proportionate and highly significant.
A wealth of experience
Remittances are not the only contribution OFW nurses give to their home country. When nurses return home they bring with them years of experience in some of the most advanced healthcare systems in the world. Upon their return to the Philippines many of these nurses enter education professions. This helps nursing schools in the country to become attuned to western healthcare systems, practices, and norms. The nurses’ wealth of knowledge contributes to training tomorrow’s healthcare professionals for the world. Other returning nurses are employed in contact centers that remotely handle the western world’s medical documentation. In this way the Philippines gains something from the exodus of healthcare professionals, as well as from their return.
About the author:
Hemant G is a contributing writer at Sparkwebs LLC, a Digital and Content Marketing Agency. When he’s not writing, he loves to travel, scuba dive, and watch documentaries.